In August 2014, just before the school year launched, Oregon City High School principal Tom Lovell asked the faculty gathered before him to guess how many Fs they'd collectively given the previous year.
Was it 500? he asked. Or maybe 1,000? The big suburban school was known for helping nearly all students meet state reading, writing and math standards and for its respectable graduation rate, so teachers were shocked when he revealed the correct answer: 2,033 Fs - practically one for every student.
"Is this something we want to put on our website," Lovell asked them. "Do we want to say, 'Come to our school and fail?' No, this is not who we are."
Beginning then, in ways small and large, the school rededicated itself to becoming a place where students find it very hard to fail.
Last week, the faculty got concrete affirmation that the amped-up care and attention they shower on students is paying off: Oregon City's on-time graduation rate rose by 5 percentage points to reach 94 percent, including 91 percent among low-income students. That's an accomplishment unmatched by the 40 other big high schools in the Portland area.