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Race, Gender Big Factors In Determining Who Drops Out In Colorado

Jonathan Payne

High school dropout rates have been slowly improving in Colorado, with the rate at 2.4 percent statewide for the 2013-2014 school year. However, there are still large gaps in those rates based on gender, race and ethnicity.

Examining data from the Colorado Department of Education, the 2015 Kids Count Report found that students who identify as Asian, white, or two or more races had the lowest dropout rates -- all below 2 percent.

Faring worse were African-American, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native students, with those groups experiencing dropout rates of 3.7 percent to 5 percent for 2013-2014.

Credit Colorado Children's Campaign 2015 Kids Count! report / Data courtesy of Colorado Department of Education
Data courtesy of Colorado Department of Education

When it comes to gender, high school dropouts tend to be predominantly male.

Those race and gender gaps have remained fairly consistent over the past eight years, a trend that is troubling to state education officials including Judith Martinez, Director of Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement with the Colorado Department of Education.

"We've been encouraged by the steady decline [in dropout rates] – but also puzzled by the persistent gaps based on race and ethnicity, as well as income and gender," Martinez said. "So we're really wanting to take a closer look at those persistent problems that are leading to a higher dropout rate for certain populations."

Credit Colorado Department of Education
Colorado Department of Education

The Kids Count report also analyzed several other education indicators that may lead students to drop out of high school.

Fourth Grade Reading Proficiency

Children not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who are. According to the most recent TCAP results, 33 percent of Colorado students weren't reading at grade level (although the number varied widely by county).

Habitual Truancy

Students who miss school frequently are at risk of falling behind – and education experts say chronic absences as early as sixth grade can predict high school dropout rates. In the 2013-2014 school year, 87,157 Colorado students – about 10 percent – were considered habitually truant, a slight increase over the year before.

Suspensions And Expulsions

Frequent out-of-school suspensions or being expelled may put children at risk for several negative outcomes. Research has found such students are up to 10 times more likely to drop out of school than their peers. In the 2013-204 school year, 54,688 Colorado students were suspended, expelled, or referred to law enforcement at least once – a slight decline from the previous year.

The Kids Count in Colorado! report is compiled annually by the Colorado Children's Campaign. Read the full report here [.pdf].

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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