Colorado graduation rates went up in 2022. So did the dropout numbers

Colorado and many school districts in the state saw higher graduation rates for the class of 2022 than before the pandemic, even as students had to meet new graduation requirements.

But the dropout rate also increased to its highest level in four years — a sign that schools are still struggling to engage students and still dealing with the fallout from pandemic-era schooling.

State leaders say districts need to dig into their data to understand their patterns since the trend isn’t typical. In at least one district, Harrison, leaders say they are seeing some payoff for programs started before the pandemic.

The Colorado Department of Education published graduation and dropout rates for the 2021-22 school year on Tuesday. Statewide, 82.3% of the class of 2022 graduated on time last spring, up from 81.7% in 2021 when the rate dipped for the first time in a decade.

The graduation rate changes this year also meant a reduction in some gaps for marginalized groups. Students with disabilities who are on an Individualized Education Program, for instance, have had big jumps in their graduation rates since the spring of 2020 when the pandemic started. Statewide, these students had a graduation rate of 67.9%, up from 59.2% for the class of 2019.

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