In the community, Schools

Malheur County graduation rates slip, but top state average

The graduation rate for Malheur County’s high school class of 2023 dropped four percentage points from last year but remains above the state average, according to the state’s annual report.

Last year’s seniors, who started high school amid the pandemic, posted an on-time graduation rate down from the 2022 average of 89%, according to data from the Oregon Department of Education’s report published Thursday, Jan. 25. The state average for 2023 was 81%.

Such graduation rates are key indicators of accountability for high schools and school districts across the state, said Peter Rudy, public information specialist with the state Education Department.

Mark Redmond, superintendent of the Malheur Education Service District, said while he had not had a chance to review the data closely, he found it notable that the Nyssa School District’s graduation rate increased by 14% over the district’s 2022 average of 80%.

The state Education Department reported that under 350 of nearly 400 seniors earned a high school diploma in the county in 2023, while over 40 dropped out, and four finished with an adult high school diploma, an extended diploma, or a general equivalency degree. Six students, the report noted, enrolled in school to complete their graduation requirements and earn a diploma.

The state reported that boys in Malheur County outpaced girls 86.6% to 84%. Boys saw a 3% drop from the previous year, while girls dropped by 5% in 2023. 

Latino students in local high schools exceeded the state average by almost 10%. Statewide, Hispanic students posted a graduation rate of 78.6%, up nearly a percentage point from the previous year. 

Meantime, 85.2% of Malheur County’s white students in 2023 received high school diplomas, down by almost 6% from the prior year. 


Ontario School District, the county’s largest school district, graduated 86%, down by nearly 5 percentage points from the prior year. In 2023, 18 students dropped out of school, while two were enrolled in classes to complete their required courses and graduate and two others earned a adult high school diploma, an extended diploma, or a general equivalency degree. 

Hispanic students at Ontario High School graduated at a rate of 88%, a 5% drop from last year. Ontario’s Latino students performed above the state average of 79%. 

Taryn Smith, the district’s public relations manager, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decline.


Nyssa, the county’s second-largest district, logged a 94% graduation rate, up from 80% the prior year. Nyssa was the only district in the county to see a significant jump.

Out of 85 students, 80 received a diploma, while five dropped out. 

The district’s Hispanic students, which make up 65% of the population, had a rate of 92%, up from 76% the previous year, the report said. 

Brett Jackman, principal of Nyssa High School, said Friday, Jan. 26, that several factors contributed to the high school’s graduation rate.

He said each student has a key adult advocate, a graduation or migrant program specialist, a school counselor, or other staffers with the district. According to Jackman, they knew each senior and were “caring and strict” in their approach to keep them on track to earning their diploma.

As a smaller school with 350 students, Jackman said that the district focuses on the students’ experience and looks to make school “student-centered” and “personalized.”

“Our staff is incredible at building connections and relationships and moving each student forward towards graduation and their long-term goals,” Jackman said.

He said the school strives to encourage students to have a favorite a favorite sport, class, or a club to be involved in along with “positive peers and a purpose.”

The idea is for students, from their freshman year to have positive school relationships that allow them to engage in the learning process.

Jackman said the improved graduation rates reflect work through the entire district.

“Nyssa High School’s 94% graduation rate demonstrates the dedication, hard work, and whatever-it-takes attitude of the educators in Nyssa School District,” Jackman said.


The report noted that 93% of Vale’s students earned a diploma, down from 96% last year. Out of 55 students, 51 graduated while four dropped out. 

The district graduated 83% of its Hispanic students, down from 92% the year before. 


The report showed that 94% of students in Adrian earned a diploma, down 1% from the prior year.

Outlying districts 

The report stated that all five of Jordan Valley’s seniors graduated in 2023, while 87% of Harper Charter’s seniors earned a diploma, down from 96% the year before. At Four Rivers Charter School, 95% of its students graduated, up from 93% in 2022. 

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