The DPS Class of 2017 was the largest graduating class in the district’s history, with 3,749 seniors earning their diplomas — an increase of 116 students over the previous year.
That was among the highlights of graduation, completion and dropout data released Jan. 18 by the Colorado Department of Education. Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova said the information shows how far DPS has come in the past decade while highlighting challenges that remain.
Ten years ago, in 2006-07, DPS’ four-year “on-time” graduation rate was just 38.7%. For the class of 2017, the district’s graduation rate is 66.6%. That rate is a slight decrease – less than 1% – from the prior year and represents the first decline in the four-year graduation rate in a decade. The dropout rate also increased slightly, by 0.2%, over last year.
Speaking at an event celebrating progress at Bruce Randolph School, Cordova said the graduation rate decrease and dropout rate increase are both concerns the district will address with urgency as DPS and school districts across Colorado prepare students for new graduation requirements that go into effect with the Class of 2021.
“We are focused on ensuring our students not only reach the graduation stage, but have the tools and supports to succeed in any path they choose,” Cordova said. “Students now have more options and support than ever if they want to stay enrolled in a DPS school longer than four years to meet graduation requirements or to earn more free college credit.”
Districtwide, 86% of DPS students are persisting through high school – meaning they have either graduated, completed high school or are still in school after four years. And more DPS students are graduating after five years, perhaps as a result of innovative new programs that encourage students to stay in high school for a fifth year.
Programs include ASCENT, which gives students access to a fully-funded fifth year of college classes, providing a head start on an associate or bachelor’s degree; the Career Education Center (CEC) Early College; and the CareerConnect CareerResidency Youth Apprenticeship Program.
“When I found out about the ASCENT program, I was astonished,” said Bruce Randolph ASCENT student Melchor Gonzales. “It has made the transition to college so much easier for me. I got so much help from my counselors and teachers to get me through high school and now, college.”
These programs contribute to DPS’ five-year graduation rate of 75.3%, with six-year and seven-year graduation rates also in the 70%-range. All are increases over the previous year.
DPS also saw improvement in the four-year graduation rate among African-American and Latino students across the district. The four-year on-time graduation rate increased for African-American students by 2%, the largest increase by race and ethnicity in 2016-17.
At Bruce Randolph, a school serving grades 6-12 in Northeast Denver, educators celebrated a four-year graduation rate of 75.8% and a five-year graduation rate is 96% — both topping the district average.
“When I started counseling here 10 years ago, students would tell me ‘college is not for me.’ We had no college-going culture,” said Bruce Randolph counselor Jan Downing. “Things have changed dramatically for our students, beginning with intentional planning for college and career.”
Bruce Randolph’s Class of 2017 consisted entirely of students of color and all groups — African-American, Hispanic and students reporting two or more races — graduated at higher rates than their peers statewide.
“We strongly believe in changing the paradigm for students of color in this generation, in this zip code,” said Bruce Randolph Principal Cesar Cedillo.
“Every measurable statistic says students living in zip codes like ours have lower graduation rates. However, we’ve set higher expectations and offer tons of support in order for students to be college ready.”
For more information:
Slides showing a summary of DPS graduation, completion and dropout data are available here.
Learn more about DPS’ college and career readiness efforts here.