District 49
El Paso County Colorado District 49

Pikes Peak region graduation rates on an incline

By Deb Risden

The Colorado Department of Education recently issued graduation and dropout rates for the school year 2022-2023. Overall, for the state of Colorado, the four-year graduation rate increased by 0.8 percent over 2021-2022 to 83.1%. The CDE reports 65% of districts showed improvement or remained at the same rate as the previous year. Graduation rates also increased for students graduating in five and seven years. Colorado’s overall dropout rate went from 2.2% in 2021-22 to 2.1% — 859 fewer than the previous year.

High school graduation rates in california

Pikes Peak region schools with the highest graduation rates in 2023 were Cheyenne Mountain D 12 (96.6%), Manitou Springs D 14 (93.85%), Fountain-Fort Carson D 8 (93%) and Academy D 20 (92.9%). Cheyenne Mountain D 12 and Academy D 20 also had the best dropout rates at less than 0.5%. Edison 54-JT (Yoder), Peyton 23-JT and Lewis-Palmer D 38 joined them in having the lowest dropout rates.

In sharp contrast, the districts with the lowest graduation rates were El Paso County Colorado D 49 (55.7%), Colorado Springs D 11 (70.1%), Woodland Park RE-2 (73%) and Hanover D 28 (73.7%). D 49’s dropout rate is 9%, the highest in the area. Other districts with notably high dropout rates were Teller County (7.1%) and D 11 (3.7%).

Four-year graduation rates are calculated by taking the number of students receiving a diploma within four years of entering ninth grade, divided by the number of students in the group or cohort that entered ninth grade four years prior. Students transferring into the school during the four years are added, and verified transfers out are subtracted from the cohort.

D 49 has a high numbers of students in alternative schools, which skews the overall graduation rates. Peter Hilts, D 49 superintendent said, “People don’t end up in an alternative school because they are thriving, but because they are in some kind of educational crisis or at risk of some negative outcomes. GOAL Academy students represent a high-need, highly impacted population.”

GOAL Academy is a multi-district, state-wide online school and the largest alternative education campus in Colorado. The school is organized as a charter school and required to have an authorizer. D 49 is GOAL Academy’s authorizer. Hilts said GOAL Academy’s senior class represents over half of the district’s graduating class. For example, its 2022 senior class had 1,907 students, representing 61.6% of the total graduating seniors in D 49. It graduated 35% of their seniors in 2023. “When you look at GOAL Academy’s non-graduates against the total number in the district, the resulting weighted number on our district’s data is profound,” Hilts said. “Although a 35% graduation rate sounds really low compared to the general population, compared to other alternative schools or looking at the numbers of students who have dropped out, it’s an amazing accomplishment.”

Pikes Peak Early College’s 2023 four-year graduation rate was 51.5%, which also impacted the district’s overall graduation rate. Hilts said that students at PPEC take advantage of concurrent college enrollment and often stay an additional year or two to earn more college credits.

For the 2023 D 49 graduating class, GOAL Academy, Patriot High School and Pikes Peak Early College performed below the state average of 83.1%. However, Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, Falcon High School, Liberty Tree Academy, Power Technical, Sand Creek High School, Springs Studio for Academic Excellence and Vista Ridge High School exceeded the state average.

The CDE reports continued gaps by race/ethnicity and instructional programs/services. Asian and migrant student graduation rates decreased from the prior year and there continue to be gaps between white students and students of color.

Student groups with higher dropout rates than the state average included students in foster care (5.5%), migrant students (4.6%), students experiencing homelessness (4.8%), English Learners (4.1%), and students in Title I schools (3.9%).

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