Malheur County schools fare better than state in regular school attendance rates

Schools in Malheur County did better than the rest of the state in getting students to attend regularly, marking increases over a year ago, according to the latest state report cards.

Of the county’s four largest school systems, Ontario and Vale marked drops in the share of students on track to graduate while Adrian held steady and Nyssa showed an increase. Even with the declines, students in Vale and Nyssa equaled or bettered the performance of students statewide on tracking toward graduation.

The state-issued report cards also showed that Vale recorded a 14% drop in the share of third graders reading at their level while Ontario, Nyssa and Adrian posted increases.

The state numbers compare school districts and schools on a number of measures that assess student performance. The report shows how district performance changed from the previous year and how they match up against the state averages.

In Adrian, the news was almost all good.

The district of 268 students posted gains in regular attendance, third-grade reading, eighth-grade math and five-year school completion, exceeding the state average in every category. The one decline came with a 5% drop in on-time graduation. Still, the 95% graduation rate was well ahead of the state average of 81%.

Reading in third grade is a critical measure educators watch. Troves of research established that students who are not adept at reading by fourth grade struggle academically and are prone to drop out of high school.

Among the county’s districts, Adrian’s third-grade reading scores were the highest, with 67% reading at grade level.

Nick Ketterling, Adrian superintendent, attributes the reading scores to educators teaching foundational skills from kindergarten through second grade. He said the district has an experienced third grade teacher in Kelsey Zimmerman, who has worked with kids to “meet and exceed expectations.” Zimmerman has been with the district since 2006.

Ketterling said the district adopted an English and language arts curriculum that aligned lower grade levels with third grade to teach students foundational reading skills consistently. He said while educators previously provided kids with “quality instruction,” it differed from what students were learning in other grade levels.

“Much like sports,” he said, “if you teach the same offense and defense from grade school up, students already know the language and expectations.”

Ketterling said the shift brought more consistency and “hopefully more success.”

He said teachers have been using methods that include phonemic awareness, a student’s ability to hear and manipulate sounds and words, phonics, letter and sound associations, and decoding strategies in Adrian and will continue to use them.

Ketterling said it took a team to achieve the improvements and the district continuously monitors student data to guide the changes to curriculum or teaching methods.

He said the district aimed to improve eighth grade scores, explaining a 4% increase in the past year and putting the district 7% above the state average.

To accomplish that, he said, the district recently adopted a new math curriculum and aligned it across all grade levels. Ketterling added that the middle school hired a new teacher this year, allowing the district to reduce class sizes in math and English.

With the school district on a four-day week, students who need additional tutoring or extra time with a teacher can come in on Fridays, according to Ketterling.

He said the district this year also added dual credit courses in health and science.

He said the district is addressing not just student academic needs that also social, emotional, physical, and mental needs “that every student brings each day.”

The middle and high schools offer a suicide prevention program that promotes youth mental health through peer support, Ketterling said. Additionally, the district has two counselors.

Also, Ketterling said, the district tries to ensure students are involved in activities beyond attending class such as sports, school plays, music programs or leadership.

The staff “never want to say that students did not have an opportunity,” Ketterling said.

With “amazing students and staff” in Adrian, Ketterling said the community has much to be proud of.

“We have high expectations that our students consistently meet and exceed,” he said. “We have room to improve and grow, and we have taken steps to help improve those areas.”

Ontario Superintendent Nikki Albisu and Nyssa Superintendent Ryan Hawkins didn’t respond to requests for comment on their district’s scores.

In Vale, Superintendent Alisha McBride said the district is “encouraged” that high school students continue to meet graduation requirements above the state average. She also said the district was “pleased” that regular attendance increased from the previous year to a rate 10% above the state average.



The state Education Department recently released the annual “report card” for school districts, comparing key measures to last year and to the state average.

Regular attenders – (Showing up for 90% of school days)

State average: 62%

Ontario 77%     (+4%)

Vale     72%     (+8%)

Nyssa   75%     (+8%)

Adrian 75%     (+4%)

Reading – (Third graders at grade level)

State average: 40%

Ontario 29%     (+3%)

Vale     29%     (-14%)

Nyssa   38%     (+9%)

Adrian 67%     (+2%)

Math – (Eighth graders at grade level)

State average: 26%

Ontario 9%       (-17%)

Vale     51%     (-2%)

Nyssa   24%     (-2%)

Adrian 33%     (+4%)

On track to graduate (Freshman)

State average: 84%

Ontario 78%     (-13%)

Vale     93%     (-1%)

Nyssa   84%     (+1%)

Adrian 95%     (No change)

News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell at [email protected]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.