Rep. Flores: Oregon Dropout Rate Prompts Legislative Changes

(Salem) The newest figures on Oregon’s high school dropout rate showed a slight decrease, however, State Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) believes, “there is plenty of room for improvement and we need to keep up the pressure to help our students succeed.” Flores has introduced two key pieces of legislation designed to increase the number of students getting a diploma. According to the Oregon Department of Education the dropout rate for the 2005-06 school year was 4.1%. Total number of students dropping out was nearly 7,400.

House Bill 3141 tracks a student’s progress to determine if they’re reaching a required number of credit hours before they move on to the next grade level. House Bill 3142 holds students, parents, and administrators more accountable if a student drops out of school. Both measures are modeled after a successful program in Indiana.

Under HB 3141 school districts are required to report to the state if a student is falling behind and students at risk of dropping out will get assistance. There is also a provision allowing parents to opt their children out of college prep or vocational courses after signing an acknowledgement of the potential negative outcomes.

“The responsibility falls more on students and parents under this model,” explained Flores, who was Chair of the House Education Committee for the past few years. “If a student does decide to drop out, they not only have to answer to their family, but also to themselves.” HB 3142 sets up a process where the school districts will give students information about what could happen if they drop out. The student and parent must then sign a form showing they understand the consequences. The legislation also increases the likelihood a dropout would lose their drivers license as one of the most immediate repercussions.

A recent national study showed if students who dropped out of the class of 2006 had graduated, they would have generated $309 billion dollars in income over their lifetimes. Flores pointed out, “there are some great programs in Oregon’s schools for dropout recovery and getting kids at risk back on track. We should encourage local schools to invest in these programs on the front end, or the costs will only increase on the back end in our criminal justice and welfare systems.”

While Flores was encouraged to see the percent of students dropping out is declining she is somewhat concerned that we are not giving parents the whole picture. Many states are now calculating the number of dropouts by comparing the number of incoming freshmen to the number of seniors graduating four years later. ODE plans to make changes to get a better perspective on how Oregon measures up to other states.