DPS Graduation Rates Continue to Climb

Jan. 19, 2017
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, back left, and Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy Executive Principal Peter Castillo celebrated the school's 100% graduation rate in 2015-16 with KCAA student artists.

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Hasly Herrera (pictured right in the above photo), a sophomore at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy (KCAA), says art has not only motivated her to pursue higher education, but also provided her with an outlet for meaningful discussion about the Latino community.

“It’s not only to be make my family proud, but to break the stereotypes of the Latina community. Of how we would usually drop out or get pregnant before high school,” she said. “I want to break those stereotypes, and hopefully just get a career in anything with art. If that happens, I will be the happiest person ever.”

On Thursday, Jan. 19, Denver Public Schools celebrated increasing graduation rates and declining dropout numbers for the 2015-16 school year, continuing a 10-year trend of improvement in both areas:

  • For the ninth consecutive year, the four-year or on-time graduation rate has steadily increased. In 2006-07, the four-year graduation rate was 39%, increasing to 67% in 2015-16.
  • For students who started with DPS in ninth grade, the four-year graduation rate was even higher — at 74%, and the five-year graduation rate for those students is now 82%.
  • Also over the past decade, DPS has cut its dropout rate by nearly two-thirds. In 2005-06, the dropout rate was 11.1%, declining steadily to 4% in 2015-16.

Following the Colorado Department of Education’s official release of state data, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg discussed the district’s progress with students, educators and community members at KCAA in Southwest Denver. Click here to watch the presentation on Facebook.

KCAA was selected for the celebration because its 100% graduation rate in spring 2016 represents improvements in graduation results across Southwest Denver:

  • In 2011-12, Southwest Denver high schools graduated 562 students, and by last spring that number had increased nearly 40% to 781 graduates. Those students had a graduation rate of 71.7%.

KCAA was once Kunsmiller Middle School, a low-performing, or red, school on the School Performance Framework; Kunsmiller was gradually phased out beginning in 2007 after years of poor performance. In 2009, the campus re-opened as Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy and it is now a thriving K-12 school offering an arts-enriched curriculum.

Impressively, 100% of KCAA’s senior class graduated in 2016, and the school also had a 0% dropout rate. The KCAA Class of 2016 was small, with 30 students, but the school’s enrollment is growing; this year’s freshman class is the largest to date, with 95 students.

“The art curriculum at Kunsmiller has helped influence my drive to go to college,” said KCAA student Kya Butterfield. “My creative mindset will help me in my future career in quantum mechanics.”

Throughout the district, graduation rates improved and dropout rates grew smaller. Completion rates, which includes students earning high school diplomas as well as those earning GEDs, also improved. Among the highlights:

  • The growth in the four-year graduation rate, from 39% to 67%, a gain of 28 points, represents more than 1,000 additional graduates. In 2006-07, 2,451 students graduated from DPS in four years. In 2015-16, 3,633 students graduated.
  • Growth was seen across all school types. In DPS traditional high schools, the four-year graduation rate in 2015-16 was 81%. In the intensive pathway/alternative education schools, which serves students across the metro area, the on-time graduation rate has grown to 32%, up from 5% in 2008-09.
  • Students who start their high school years in DPS are more likely to graduate, with a four-year graduation rate of 74% and a five-year graduation rate of 82%.

“DPS has seen a greater gain than any other major school district in the state and possibly the country,” said Superintendent Boasberg. “There are hundreds and thousands more students who are staying in school, and graduating ready for college and career.”

While celebrating gains, Boasberg also noted the district still has work to do to close gaps among student groups:

  • Hispanic graduation rates have increased significantly over time, from 30% in 2007 to 63.3% in 2015-16, a gain of 33 points. However, the graduation rate for white students in 2015-16 was 77.5%.
  • African-American graduation rates also have grown, from 43% in 2007 to 64% in 2015-16, a gain of 21 points.
  • Like their classmates, African-American and Hispanic students who start high school in DPS have a higher on-time graduation rate of 69.4%, compared to 63% for those who transfer into DPS during high school.

Click to read a district summary of graduation, completion and dropout rate data. Visit the state Department of Education graduation rate website and its dropout statistics website for school-by-school data.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]