Madras High School turning graduation rates around

Building relationships paying off

More freshman on track for graduation...

MADRAS, Ore. - Madras High School has had a notoriously low graduation rate, but it looks like that’s changing. 

New data shows the number of freshmen on track to graduate is on the rise. In some cases, it has more than doubled.

“Native Americans were at 33 percent, now they’re at 69 percent,” H.D. Weddel, the high school’s co-principal, said Thursday. 

Students like senior Kairi Alire have seen the change. 

“Freshman and sophomore year, I noticed myself going downhill, like not thinking I was going to be able to go to college,” she said.

Alire said the arrival of new administrators three years ago brought a new approach, focusing on relationships and holding students accountable. 

“I was getting into a lot of trouble,” Alire said. “When I would get called in, it would be a lot of communication with the principals, them saying, 'You need to set a goal and get it done.'”

Teacher Allen Hair said, “If we can build relationships and push them, then they will rise to the level we want them to.”

The strategy seems to be working. 

For the 2013-2014 year, fewer than 50 percent were on track; now 82 percent are. 

“They gave me a system, like a backbone,” Alire said. “I have to do this, because they’re holding me accountable.”

Although Weddel was one of the spearheads of the new strategy, he said it takes everyone. 

“It’s not about any individuals. It’s a team effort,” he said. “Caring for kids, keeping this place safe and clean, encouraging students at every opportunity.”

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