Updated Jan 11, 2023 - News

High school graduation and dropout rates are up in Colorado

Illustration of a pattern of apples and stacks of textbooks.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

New education data paints a split picture of school districts across Colorado, Axios Denver's reporting partners at Chalkbeat write.

Driving the news: Colorado saw gains in four-year high school graduation rates for the 2021-22 school year, despite students having to meet new requirements, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Education.

  • Yes, but: Dropout rates, which measure the number of 7th- through 12th-grade students who disenroll from schools, are also up — and administrators are searching for solutions.

Why it matters: Although the state has higher graduation rates compared with pre-pandemic levels, the rise in dropouts reflects the challenge schools face to re-engage students in person after a long period of COVID-induced remote learning.

By the numbers: Colorado's graduation rate for the class of 2022 climbed to 82.3%. That's up from 81.7% in 2021 — the first time rates dropped in a decade.

  • Denver's graduation rate rose to 76.5% in 2022, up 5.6 percentage points from 2019.
  • Statewide, students with disabilities enrolled in an Individualized Education Program saw a significant spike in graduation rates, jumping to 67.9% in 2022 from 59.2% in 2019.

The other side: Colorado's dropout rate, which had been trending downward for years, hit 2.2% — a 22.2% increase from 2021, per state data.

  • The last time the rate reached this level was during the 2017-2018 academic year.

What they're saying: State leaders are advising school districts to examine their data to understand what's happening, since the trend isn't typical.

  • "We hope that we're going to figure this out, but it is still happening," Steve Dobo, an educational consultant who works with local school districts, told Chalkbeat. "We have kids that come to school three times a week."

Of note: In at least one district — Harrison, where dropout rates have remained low at 1.6% — administrators are attributing high student engagement to programs, such as an early warning system that tracks risk factors starting in middle school.

Go deeper: Search your schools four-year rate


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