By Luke Hegdal
HERMISTON According to the Oregon Department of Education's recent data, Umatilla and Morrow counties have consistently kept dropout rates well below the state average.
That trend has continued with the latest report, even though the Oregon state dropout rate of 4.1 percent is the lowest it has been since statewide reporting began in 1991.
State Superintendent of Instruction Susan Castillo said that historically the dropout rate has fluctuated with the economy.
"As the economy improved and the unemployment rate went down, the dropout rate went up," Castillo said. "The good news in today's report is that it appears that overall rates have remained low even as Oregon's economy has improved."
The Hermiston dropout rate for the 2005-2006 year was 2.8 percent, up from 1.9 percent, but still well below the state average.
Hermiston officials attribute the consistently low dropout rate in Hermiston schools to the House program. The House program gives freshmen and sophomores more continuity as they enter high school.
According to Deputy Superintendent Mark Mulvihill, developing connections with younger students is the best way to ensure they complete school.
"We're never satisfied until the dropout rate is zero," said Mulvihill, though he said the district is pleased that they have managed to see consistently low dropout rates.
Other area schools also report dropout rates significantly lower than the state average.
Umatilla's dropout rate has dropped from 3.7 to .8 percent, Stanfield is down from 1.3 to .7 percent, and Irrigon is down from 1.0 to .6 percent.
Riverside's dropout rate rose slightly from 1.7 to 2.3 percent, and Echo's dropout rate rose from 0 to 1.4 percent.
Heppner also saw a minor increase, from .0 percent to .7 percent.