Board approves early retirement plan
School District 51 hopes to become an example of how to increase graduation rates as Colorado and five other states enter a yearlong dropout-prevention program.
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices announced Monday that Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee and West Virginia will participate in the State Strategies to Achieve Graduation for All initiative.
The bipartisan public policy association recently released a report on dropout prevention and recovery, and it will use the report as a guide for teaching the six selected states how to provide more student support, re-enroll students after they leave school, and create policies, bills and regulations geared toward increasing the graduation rate.
District 51 already is ahead of the curve, according to Bill Larsen, the district’s director of high schools. With a graduation rate consistently one to five percentage points below the state average the past six years, the district has increased efforts to reach kids they have identified as at risk to drop out.
Those measures include:
Offering students extra learning time if they have grade-point averages below 2.0 or score less than proficient on assessments in reading, writing or math.
Offering alternative schools and programs so that students can get the 25 credits needed to graduate.
Having progress monitors who work like counselors in district middle and high schools and help students who behind in their work.
Offering a program that helps students graduate even if they are too far along in high school to graduate on time with the full 25 credits.
“I think the governor will be in our district asking us what we’re doing right,” Larsen said.
Colorado’s graduation rate was 73.9 percent in 2008. The same year, District 51’s graduation rate increased from 69.3 percent to 70.6 percent. Larsen’s goal is to catch up to the state even more during the next few years.
“Our goal is to increase the graduation rate by 1.5 percent minimum each year,” Larsen said.
Preliminary data for the class of 2009 has indicated the district may achieve and surpass that goal. Graduation rate data for 2009 is expected to be released within the next two weeks by the Colorado Department of Education.