TROUTDALE, Ore. - Reynolds High School in Troutdale is a "dropout factory," according to a Johns Hopkins University study commissioned by the Associated Press.
Dropout factory is the term used to describe schools where less than 60 percent of students continue into their senior year.
"So we find ourselves being called a dropout factory in part because of a technicality, in part because of a different way of measuring than the state," said Reynolds School District Superintendent Terry Kneisler.
In a joint press conference, Kneisler, Reynolds Principal Kevin Kannier, and secondary education Executive Director Joyce Henstrand told the media the study is short-sighted because it only looks at enrollment numbers, and does not account for many students who were transferred to the alternative school, held back, or moved away.
Kannier, head of the largest student body population in the state, said another key factor in Reynolds' dropout trend is the fact they have a 27-credit requirement for students to graduate - the highest in Oregon.
"The expectations are very, very high," he said. "Those are going to have some impact along the way."
There's evidence of that effect down the street, where we found 18-year-old Zak Blomfield, a Reynolds High dropout who was supposed to graduate last spring.
"I had two bad years my freshman and sophomore year. I didn't pass classes. I never fixed it," Blomfield said.
According to the Oregon Dept. of Education, the following are the top reasons students dropped out of school in Oregon during the 2005-2006 school year:
- 1,274 students said they felt too far behind to catch up.
- 794 lacked parental support.
- 696 cited working more than 15 hours a week.
- 645 quit because of a dysfunctional home life.
Blomfield, who now works at the Safeway gas station in Cherry Park, said he is not sure what the solution is for kids like him, "Except teacher and parents getting together more, because my parents were kind of out of it."
District officials say they are taking steps to keep students through their senior year, including making sure students have access to counselors, mental health professionals, and teachers. Starting next year, Henstrand said they will roll out new programs targeted toward at-risk students in the ninth and tenth grades. They are also offering more opportunities for students to recover their credits at night.
Reynolds was not the only school in our area to be labeled a dropout factory. R.A. Long High School in Longview was also listed in the Johns Hopkins report.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)