Graduation rate push paying off for district

The graduation rate is up and the dropout rate is down in School District 51.

The graduation rate climbed 3.2 percentage points from 2008, with 73.8 percent of seniors graduating with their class in 2009, according to early numbers from the district, which will become official today with the release of statewide numbers from the Colorado Department of Education.

The graduation rate measures how many seniors graduated in spring 2009 that were freshmen in the spring of 2006 and did not move to another school district. The dropout rate, which decreased 0.7 percentage points from 2008 to 3.6 percent in 2009 in District 51, tracks how many students drop out of school in each grade from seventh through 12th grade.

Bill Larsen, director of high schools in District 51, said the local graduation-rate increase represents about 43 students saved from dropping out of high school.

Larsen listed several reasons for the increase in graduation rates:

New reading and math programs.

Having the class of 2009 be the first to graduate under an accountability program that sets grade-point average and proficiency goals.

Having an attendance officer visit former students with a local address and ask them to return to school.

The district’s goal is to increase the graduation rate by at least 1.5 percent each year from now on, Larsen said.

Graduates can earn twice as much as nongraduates and are less likely to end up in trouble with the law, he said.

“It costs up to $7,000 a year to educate a student. If a student leaves our system and enters the legal system, it can cost (taxpayers) as much as $100,000 a year,” Larsen said.

At 4.2 percent, Central High School had the highest dropout rate among the district’s four high schools, followed by 3.9 percent at Palisade High, 3.2 percent at Grand Junction High and 2.6 percent at Fruita Monument High. Each school decreased its dropout rate by at least 0.4 percentage point, and Palisade’s dropped 3 percentage points. Students who attend alternative programs are counted with their “home” school, determined by which school’s boundaries they live in.

Fruita Monument had the highest graduation rate, 87.9 percent, followed by 79.8 percent at Central, 77.5 percent at Grand Junction and 71.5 percent at Palisade. Graduation rates at each school increased by at least 2.1 percentage points from 2008.

Male and female graduation rates in District 51 went up between 2008 and 2009, from 74.1 to 76.7 percent for women and from 67.2 to 71 percent for men. Students with limited proficiency in the English language increased their graduation rate by 23.5 percentage points to 66.4 percent.


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