District 51 surpasses state graduation rate
School District 51’s graduation rate surpassed the state’s for the first time in district history last year, when 74 percent of students who started as ninth-graders in fall 2006 graduated from a local high school in spring 2010.
The rate increased from 71.8 percent in spring 2009. The completion rate, which includes students who graduated from high school or completed their degree through other means, such as a GED, increased year-over-year from 76.3 percent to 78.7 percent, surpassing the state in both years, by 2.1 percentage points in 2009 and 2.9 percentage points in 2010.
Colorado’s graduation rate for the class of 2010 was 72.4 percent, up from 70.7 percent, under a new state formula that tracks only the students who graduate within four years. The system, which will be adopted this year by 48 states, replaces an old formula that allowed students graduating outside the traditional four-year timeline to be included in the graduation rate for the year they ended up finishing high school.
The state will release separate graduation rates for students graduating within five years and six years in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
District 51 Executive Director of High Schools Bill Larsen said the new measure shows the district is succeeding in retaining students instead of allowing them to “fail and show them a door out.” But he hesitates to overpraise a rating method that focuses on graduating in four years.
“There will be kids that didn’t graduate in four years that will graduate in five, six or seven years. What matters is you’re still getting your diploma and moving on to the next step,” Larsen said.
Larsen expressed pride in the district surpassing the state graduation rate not only overall, but in numerous subcategories, including rates for homeless and economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, gifted and talented teens, and non-native English speakers.
An increase in the number of students taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement classes may have contributed to those rates, Larsen said, along with programs such as STRIVE and AVID, which encourage students who would otherwise not consider college to pursue degrees.
The district also decreased its dropout rate last year, tying the state for a second consecutive year. The district and the state decreased their dropout rates year over year by half of a percentage point to 3.1 percent.
The dropout rate measures what percentage of students drop out of school between seventh and 12th grade. Seniors had the highest dropout rate in District 51 last year, 7.7 percent. The junior dropout rate was 5.6 percent, the sophomore dropout rate was 2.5 percent, and 1.7 percent of freshmen dropped out of school. All of those rates were down from 2008–09 except for the freshman rate, which remained unchanged.
Dropout rates sometimes can be skewed by students leaving the district for another one without alerting the district.