Colorado’s high school graduation rate drops for the 1st time in a decade

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado saw a drop in the high school graduation rate last year for the first time in more than a decade.

State data shows the graduation rate dropped to 81.7% in the 2020-21 school year, even as the figure has inched up by 9.3 percentage points since 2010. The current dip comprises decreases among historically disadvantaged students. Meanwhile, the overall dropout rate stayed the same at 1.8%.

In a statement, Colorado Department of Education Commissioner Katy Anthes pointed to the pandemic challenges of remote and hybrid learning models and said the latest numbers were a “relief.”

“It is a relief that the graduation rate is nearly the same as it was the previous year,” Anthes said. “With the state’s dropout rate also nearly unchanged, it is a concrete display of the dedication and determination of Colorado’s students, parents and teachers, especially during these tough times.”

Graduation rates decrease in Colorado

Students of color in Colorado saw an overall graduation rate of 76.1%, which shows a decrease of 1 percentage point. Most groups involved in specialized programs also saw a drop.

These groups saw their graduation rates decline from 2020:

  • Migrant: -4.7
  • Homeless: -3.1
  • Limited English proficient: -2.7
  • American Indian: -2.2
  • Economically disadvantaged: -1.7
  • Title I: -1.4
  • Hispanic: -1.2
  • Two or more races: -0.8
  • Male: -0.6
  • Black: -0.6

Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, female and white students saw increases in their graduation rates. Students with disabilities also saw a notable 4.6% improvement, likely because of a new law that requires the state to count students with disabilities in the year they meet minimum graduation requirements.

Colorado school staff shortages

The latest figures come at a challenging time for Colorado schools, many of which are reverting back to remote and hybrid learning amid the fast-moving wave of the omicron COVID-19 variant. Schools are also suffering a significant staffing shortage, sometimes leading to sudden cancellations.

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