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State’s four-year grad rate inches up

Colorado’s four-year graduation rate crept up 1.5 percentage points to 75.4 percent for the class of 2012, according to data released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Education. And the state’s dropout rate dipped a tiny bit. That’s the good news.

The bad news? A quarter of the state’s high school-aged students are not graduating in four years, and 12,256 students dropped out of Colorado schools last year.

A total of 120 – or 65.6 percent – Colorado school districts achieved a four-year on-time graduation rate at or above the state’s expectation of at least 80 percent. And the rate for minority students increased at or faster than the rate for their white peers, although white and Asian students still have the highest rates.

Among racial and ethnic groups, the on-time graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year was:

  • 57.7 percent for American Indian;
  • 82.9 percent for Asian students;
  • 66.2 percent for black students;
  • 62.5 percent for Hispanic students;
  • 82.1 percent for white students;
  • 70.1 percent for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders
  • 80.4 percent for students reported as two or more races.

Statewide, the on-time graduation for females was 79.5 percent and the male graduation rate was 71.4 percent. For gifted and talented students, the on-time graduation rate in Colorado was 91.6 percent.

The overall high school completion rate saw greater gains, growing from 76.8 percent to 78.2 percent. The completion rate covers all graduates, including those who receive a certificate, a designation of high school completion or a GED.

Denver celebrates gains in grad rate

Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg joined South High School Principal Kristin Waters, other district leaders and South students to share good news about the district’s on-time graduation rate, which rose by 3 percentage points to 58.8 in 2011-2012 over the previous year. And, Boasberg said if you take out transfer students and only look at students who started ninth grade in DPS then graduated four years later, the on-time graduation rate is actually 67 percent.

Also in DPS, the on-time graduation rate for students with limited English proficiency was 52.7 percent, compared to a state average of 53.3 percent; and 53.7 percent for economically disadvantaged students, compared to 61.4 percent statewide for that group. The on-time graduation rate for Hispanic students in DPS was 55.2 percent, compared to a statewide rate of 62.5 percent. For black students, the on-time graduation rate in Colorado was 66.2 statewide, and 58.2 in Denver schools.

Boasberg acknowledged the persistent achievement gaps between different groups of students based on race and income.

“The real challenge we have is to close those gaps,” he said. “There is a high correlation of first-generation college students with those indicators…No matter how much money mom or dad has (every student) has potential and ability and our job is to work with them to realize that potential and have them go to college.”

Future Centers help DPS students plan for college

The news conference was held in the Future Center at South High, a room with staff from the Denver Scholarship Foundation and school counselors devoted to helping students prepare, figure out financial aid and apply to college. To date, DSF has awarded $15.6 million in scholarships to 3,250 DPS graduates. Of these students, 81 percent have completed their degree program or remain enrolled in college.

As far as South’s on-time graduation rate, it rose 8 percentage points from 58.8 to 66.6 in one year.

South senior AJ Harris, a member of the school’s top-ranked football team who also takes honors courses, said the Future Center has been instrumental to helping him getting an ACT score he needed to get to qualify for an athletic scholarship. He said he feels confidant as he applies to college thanks to his experiences at South.

“Going to South High School prepared me,” Harris said. “The teachers are always on you. It’s impossible to slack off here…”

Harris also said he really needed help figuring out the college application process.

“I couldn’t have done it by myself… I didn’t know what was going on as far as the scholarship process goes.”

Meanwhile, the district’s dropout rate continues to fall, with the total now 2,103 dropouts, down from 4,017 in 2005-06. Almost half of the students in DPS who drop out have transferred into the district (mostly into the district’s alternative high school programs) from other districts after they start high school.

Boasberg point out that since the Denver Plan was implemented six years ago, the dropout rate has been cut in half.

“That means there are 2,000 students last year in DPS who didn’t drop out who would have dropped out six years ago,” Boasberg said. “I think that’s absolutely critical. We want every one of our students to graduate from high school prepared for college and career.”

Traditional high schools in DPS have a significantly higher on-time graduation rate than alternative schools – 74 percent vs. 12 percent – a disparity signaling the district has work to do, Boasberg said.

“Our goal is 100 percent,” Boasberg said. “While we are pleased to see the progress we have a lot of work to do… to make sure every one of our kids is graduating and prepared for college and career.”

Dropout rate dips statewide

And, for the sixth year in a row, the state’s high school dropout rate declined, although only by .1 percent, or 488 students. The 2011-2012 dropout rate was 2.9 percent.

The dropout rate reflects the percentage of all students enrolled in grades seven through 12 who leave school without transferring to another school or program during a single school year.

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