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Colorado Graduation Rates Inch Upwards, Still Lag National Rates

Grace Hood
More students are graduating high school on time in Colorado, but the state still has catching up to do when it comes to national trends.

Although slightly more Colorado teens completed high school in 2016, the most recent report from the Colorado Department of Education says there’s still work to do to catch up to national trends.

2016 graduation and dropout data, released in January, marked a small uptick in the number of students finishing high school in four years — up to 78 percent, compared to 77 percent in 2015. This marks the highest it’s been since the highest it’s been since 2010, one year after the office of dropout prevention was created within CDE. Nationally, graduation rates were at 83 percent in 2015. 2016 numbers are expected to be available later this year.

When it comes to Colorado’s students of color, the rates were lower still. Seventy-one percent of black students graduated on time, while 69 percent of hispanic students did. Native American students lagged even further behind at 62 percent. By comparison, 84 percent of white students completed high school in four years.

The dropout rate in 2016 improved by a similarly small increment. Just 2.3 percent of students dropped out in 2016 - compared to 2.5 the previous year and 2.9 percent in 2012.

Certain populations still see higher rates. Dropouts among homeless teens are at 6.1 percent, a number that has remained steady since 2015 but an improvement over the 8.5 percent high seen in 2012. The dropout rate for economically disadvantaged teens is 2.9 percent, another area where little change has been noted. The rate for minority students is at 3.3 percent — higher, slightly, than the overall rate, but down from 3.6 percent the previous year.

Crediting local districts for improvements

CDE has given much of the credit to school districts which have created alternative pathways to graduation in recent years. Many of those pathways are now part of statewide guidelines, effective this year. Other successful strategies lauded by the department include more individualized attention for students and more customized intervention for failing students.

One thing the department will take credit for, however, is its slate of tools for districts, such as detailed dropoutand graduationdata available on the CDE website, broken down by district.

When it comes to reaching minority student populations, CDE points to a federal program that specifically assists states in educating Native American students called Title VII. The program provides schools and districts with grants and resources. As of last year, 2,223 Native American students attend Colorado’s public schools — less than one percent of the total student population.

Ann Marie Awad's journalistic career has seen her zigzag around the United States, finally landing on Colorado. Before she trekked to this neck of the woods, she was a reporter and Morning Edition host for WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capitol. In a former life, she was a reporter in New York City. Originally, she's from Buffalo, so she'll be the judge of whether or not your chicken wings are up to snuff, thank you very much.
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