Colorado’s Dropout Rate Decreases to 2.3 Percent

fullsizerender10,530 students dropped out of school in the 2015-2016 school year, which corresponds to a 2.3 percent Dropout Rate. After a small increase in the dropout rate in the previous year, Colorado is back on track when it comes to dropout prevention and reengagement.

Each January an eagerly awaited set of numbers are published. After much toil and double-checking, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) releases the dropout numbers from the previous school year (school districts have until August 31st to finalize their numbers). CDE, working in conjunction with school districts, analyze, verify and look for any potential mistakes and anomalies before making the numbers final. They look for duplicates or instances where a student was “coded” as a dropout but had not actually dropped out. While all of these instances constitute a small amount of students, it’s impressive to see how much care is actually given.

So what do we know? The 2015-2016 dropout rate has gone down compared to last year and is less than where it was two years ago. The dropout rate is calculated by the number of students in the 7th through 12th grades, who left school that year, divided by the number of all enrolled students in those same grades. Here’s the number and rate for the last three years:

  • 2015-2016: 10,530 Students, 2.3 Percent Dropout Rate
  • 2014-2015: 11,114 Students, 2.5 Percent Dropout Rate
  • 2013-2014: 10,546 Students, 2.4 Percent Dropout Rate

The 2014-2015 school year numbers were a bit of a surprise as the state of Colorado had seen the dropout rate decline for 8 years. Also, for the sake of comparison, this is what the dropout numbers and rate looked like the year Colorado Youth for a Change was started:

  • 2005-2006: 18,031 Students, 4.5 Percent Dropout Rate

A notable trend this past school year was that the Metro Denver Region had 765 less youth leave school than compared to last year for a 13 percent decrease (5,923 students compared to 5,158). Within the Metro Denver Region, the largest decrease for any school district was from Adams 12 Five Star Schools which saw the numbers of students dropping out cut in half (681 students compared to 336). Aurora Public Schools had a 21 percent decrease (874 compared to 689). Denver saw a 7 percent decrease with 131 less students leaving (1,770 compared to 1,639).

The biggest percent decrease for a region was from the Southeast, which saw a 30 percent drop from the previous school year (291 students compared to 204).

“We are thrilled to see so many of the districts we work in see an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in dropout rates,” said Mary Zanotti, Executive Director of Colorado Youth for a Change. “We also recognize we still have a long way to go to reaching all of the students leaving school or not graduating across the state.”

Colorado Youth for a Change will eventually recover (the process of contacting out-of-school youth and bringing them back) about 500 of these students. 70 percent of those recovered students will be successful the year they are brought back.

Students leave school for a number of reasons. Some reasons have to do with their academic progress, while other reasons are connected to the enormous odds they face. For example, the most commonly cited reason given to us by students is that they “missed too many days”. A further look finds that these particular youth felt hopeless about their future and stopped attending. Yet we also know that students with considerable life events, such as foster care, homelessness and pregnancy, also drop out at higher rates. We call these later students MVPs—short for Most Vulnerable Populations.

CYC has always striven to develop programming that reengages students but also addresses their barriers. In some ways it’s heart wrenching to hear the obstacles youth face, but by collecting information and getting to know them, we learn about the path forward.

2 thoughts on “Colorado’s Dropout Rate Decreases to 2.3 Percent

  1. Can see the practicality of some focus on the granular data represented in 12th grade dropout figures — to influence reengagement practice.

    However, bigger picture, very surprised to see a state as progressive on education & reengagement policy as Colorado spending significant time to develop and feature event dropout rate figures by contrast with cohort dropout rates.

    Curious whether current data systems at state or district level support determination of cohort dropout rates.

    1. Thanks for your comment Andrew. We tend to agree with you. While the event rate is helpful (the amount of students dropping out within a specific time frame) it does not present a complete picture. Colorado does not require a cohort dropout rate (the amount of students leaving school early from a specific group—like a grade level) and we have had moments that we wished they did.

      As you know, calculating the cohort rate requires additional information and a careful study of why students left over time. While it can be done, we suspect the resources are not there currently to complete this each year. A helpful overview of what Colorado does with both the graduation rate and the dropout rate can be found here.

      Moreover, a limitation of the event dropout rate that Colorado uses is that some school districts classify student grade by credits while some do it by age.

      Yet, we were wondering, do you know of a state or school district that captures the Cohort Dropout Rate well?

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