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Colorado high school graduation rate fourth worst in the country

Colorado has the nation’s second-highest percentage of college graduates but one of the lowest high school graduation rates, a recent study shows.

Only the District of Columbia had a higher percentage of college graduates. Only Texas, Nevada and Arizona had lower high school graduation rates.

More than one-third of Coloradans over age 25 have bachelor’s degrees, but only 82 percent of residents 18 to 24 have a high school diploma or the equivalent, according to a report this year by the American Electronics Association and the Nasdaq Stock Market.



Those numbers also closely reflect graduation rates at local schools, which fall slightly below the state average.

The average graduation rate for the 2001-02 school year for high schools from Basalt to Parachute, according to Colorado Department of Education (CDE), is 78 percent.



The graduation rate in the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District, including Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, was 78.2 percent.

The average rate in the Garfield Re-2 School District, which takes in New Castle, Silt and Rifle, is 90.9 percent, while District 16 in Parachute is at 77.8 percent.

According to the CDE, the statewide average graduation rate for the 2000-01 school year was 80.5 percent.

But high school graduation statistics can be misleading, said Dave Smith of the CDE. Students who leave Colorado schools without requesting transcripts are counted as dropouts, even though they may have moved away and entered schools that do not require transcripts.

Still, he said, “The statistics we have are enough to show us there’s a problem.”

Kathy Owens, registrar at Rifle High School, said students are tracked from their freshman year through graduation. Students who move and don’t request transcripts are calculated into the formula, which lowers the school’s graduation rate.

The Hispanic graduation rate for 2001 is even more distressing. In Re-1, only 40 percent were reported to have graduated. Re-2 numbers are a bit brighter, at 81 percent, with 100 percent of female Hispanics graduating.

The problem, said Judy Haptonstall, Re-1 assistant superintendent, is that many of those students return to Mexico or fail to request transcripts. Even if they enroll in a school in Mexico, that isn’t often reported to the district.

School districts also report their drop-out rate to the state. In 2001, the drop-out rate statewide was 2.9 percent. The local average was below the state average, at 2.1 percent.

Re-1 reported a rate of 3.0 percent, Re-2 reported 0.3 percent, and District 16 reported a drop-out rate of 4.0 percent.

Haptonstall noted that those numbers reflect the district’s alternative schools, which have a higher drop-out rate. However, she added, those numbers are based on “convoluted calculations.”

“You really need to look at each high school individually,” she said.

The drop-out rate at Rifle High School for the 2000-01 year, according to Owens, was .017. The graduation rate was above 90 percent. “So actually, our numbers are really good,” she said. The school makes every effort to provide support and special programs to help students graduate.

Considering the high rate of transiency in the area, “Our graduation rate is high, our drop-out rate is low. That’s how we want to be.”

“Unless we have 100 percent of our kids graduating,” said Haptonstall, “we are constantly looking for better ways to meet the needs of our students.”


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