Battle Ground Public Schools’ on-time graduation rates highest in nearly a decade
March 3, 2022
On-time graduation rates across Battle Ground Public Schools rebounded last year, bucking a trend seen around Washington state and much of the country. Across the district’s two comprehensive high schools and three alternative learning programs, 4-year graduation rates hit their highest level in nearly a decade after dipping slightly early in the pandemic.
Prairie High School saw the sharpest increase out of the two comprehensive high schools. 89.5% of seniors graduated on time last year, up 7 percentage points from 2020. It was the highest 4-year graduation rate at Prairie since 2014.
Battle Ground High School’s on-time graduation rate rose from 86.5% in 2020 to 88.1% in 2021, the school’s highest rate in six years.
“We are proud of the incredible work being done throughout our district to help students overcome during a very challenging two years,” Superintendent Denny Waters said. “Our teachers, counselors, graduation coaches and building administrators have made every effort to recognize and support students who may be falling behind in some areas.”
CAM Academy, the district’s rigorous alternative learning program for grades 3-12, retained a graduation rate above 93%, in line with previous years. River HomeLink saw on-time graduation rates increase from 76.2% in 2020 to 81.6% last year, the highest since 2013.
Summit View High School, the district’s alternative learning program for students looking to complete graduation requirements at their own pace, saw graduation rates climb to nearly 49% last year, a 16-point jump from 2020.
“Our on-time graduation rates are always going to be low compared to a comprehensive high school, because when we get kids they’re already a year behind, on average,” said Summit View Principal Kevin Palena. “Our job is to get them to the necessary proficiency in each of their classes, regardless of the calendar date.”
Many Summit View students work full-time jobs, have their own children, or even run a home business while trying to complete their high school education. Summit View provides these students the opportunity to earn a diploma until they turn 21. After that, students earn a GED rather than a diploma. Summit View is one of the few programs in Clark County offering such flexibility to students looking to finish high school. At least 18 percent of the school’s enrollment is from outside the Battle Ground school district.
“Some of our students graduate early,” Palena said. “But whether they’re finishing a class in 12 weeks, 18 weeks or 24 weeks, we don’t really care. The point is to get them to a place of academic proficiency.”
Graduation requirements have changed in Washington over the past few years to add rigor. In 2019, the required number of credits to graduate from high school in Washington changed from 20 to 24. That means a student who takes six classes a semester for four years must pass every class to graduate. With less room for failing grades, the district has implemented several changes aimed at helping students stay on track.
Battle Ground and Prairie high schools have a dedicated class period on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students to get help in areas where they are struggling. Tiger Time and Falcon Support give students the opportunity to meet with their teachers, make up work, study, and ask questions about the materials presented during class time so that they can improve their grades.
Graduation success coaches also were added at the high schools in 2016. Their work focuses especially on students in grades 11 and 12 who may be at risk of not meeting graduation requirements. They build relationships, track progress and check in frequently to ensure students are on track to graduate on time.
Due to the impact that the pandemic has had on student learning, the Washington State Board of Education (SBE) approved an emergency waiver program for the classes of 2020-22. This allows local districts and private schools to waive up to two elective or core credits for students who had at least 20 total credits and demonstrated a good faith effort to make up ground lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Battle Ground Public Schools has worked closely with students to assess their readiness to graduate and approve waivers selectively, with a focus on ensuring students are not unfairly impacted by circumstances beyond their control.
“We are dedicated to ensuring students understand what is necessary to graduate and the best pathway to get there,” Waters said. “There is a lot of work ahead of us to close educational gaps created by the pandemic, but we are hopeful these graduation rates show that our efforts are already helping students succeed.”