District 51’s graduation rate outdoes state’s

More students earned diplomas across Grand Valley, state in 2011

School District 51 surpassed the state’s graduation rate in 2011, marking the second consecutive year it bested the state.

Last spring, 75.5 percent of students who entered ninth grade at a District 51 school in fall 2007 graduated with a high school diploma. Another 3.5 percent earned a General Education Diploma.

Statewide, 73.9 percent of ninth-graders in 2007-08 graduated in 2010-11 and an additional 2.9 percent earned a GED.

Graduation rates increased for both the state and the district in 2011. The dropout rate, however, decreased a tenth of a percentage point to 3 percent for the state and increased three-tenths of a percentage point to 3.4 percent for District 51.

That increase amounts to about 27 more dropouts in 2011 than in 2010. District 51 Academic Options Director Ron Roybal said the increase can be traced to Grande River Virtual Academy, which started as a pilot program in 2010-11. The program only recruited students during that pilot year who had dropped out of school and wanted to try again to earn a diploma. Roybal said the district didn’t have experience with online learning back then and didn’t know which students would best succeed in a virtual classroom.

“We found out we needed self-motivated students with support at home,” Roybal said. “We had one graduate, but we found out we needed a process.”

District 51 Executive Director of High Schools Bill Larsen said the school now interviews all prospective students and makes sure parents and students understand what they’re getting into. He said he hopes people don’t shy away from the program because of the dropout news. The school currently has 171 kindergarten through 12th-grade students and is no longer focused solely on dropout recovery.

“We’ve learned a lot from this year and last year,” Larsen said.

The graduation, GED and dropout rates do not add up to 100 percent because the graduation and GED rates measure high school completion in four years, and the dropout rate measures how many students drop out each year in grades seven through 12. Some students are recorded as dropouts because they transferred to another school but that transfer never was documented.

Students who graduate in more or less than four years are counted separately from the graduation rate. The district reported 8.6 percent of students who did not graduate last year with their original freshman class are still in school.

Mesa Valley Vision Home and Community Program was the only high school in District 51 that reported a decrease in its graduation rate in 2011 compared with 2010, but the school had no dropouts. The remaining students are still in school or completed a degree early or received a GED.

Graduation rates increased by more than a percentage point each at Central, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction, Palisade and R-5 high schools. Grand Junction High School had the largest year-over-year increase, climbing 3.2 percentage points to 81 percent.

The graduation rate at Gateway School remained at 100 percent.


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