Virus Outbreak Colorado

A school sign shows a message as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps over Colorado and the country outside Littleton High School Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Littleton, Colo. 

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s high school graduation rate fell for the first time in a decade last year amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). 

The overall graduation rate for the class of 2021 was 81.7%, a drop of 0.2% when compared to the prior year. The state's data also revealed stark divides in graduation and dropout rates among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Even with the drop, Colorado’s four-year graduation rate has increased by more than 9% since 2010 when the state changed how it calculates the rate, CDE said. 

“We know how tough it was for everyone last school year due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic with schools going to remote learning and others offering hybrid models,” Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner, said in a statement. 

Colorado’s dropout rate was 1.8% in each of the last two years, with more than 8,200 students leaving school in 2020-21, CDE said. It marks the lowest rate the state has recorded over the last decade. 

Anthes said it is a “relief” that the dropout rate remained unchanged and also described it as “a concrete display of the dedication and determination of Colorado’s students, parents and teachers, especially during these tough times.”

But the highest dropout rates were recorded among students of color and students from economically disadvantaged households, both of which recorded rates more than twice as high as their white classmates. 

Overall, students of color recorded a graduation rate of 76.1% last year, a drop of 1% from the year before, CDE’s figures show. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students all recorded lower graduation rates despite these groups making up less than half of the total graduates from last year.

Colorado schools also graduated fewer students who were either homeless or migrated to the United States. 

In the class of 2021, just 53% of students experiencing homelessness graduated, a decline of 3.1%. Migrant students saw an even steeper year-over-year decline at 4.7% even though two-thirds of these students received a diploma. 

The only institutional program category that recorded an increase in its graduation rate last year was for students with disabilities, which graduated 4.6% more students than it did in 2020.