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News Release - Dropout rate at lowest point since 2003

Jan. 23, 2014

Dropout rate at lowest point since 2003

State continues to show improvement in graduation rate  

Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education show the state saw a decrease in the dropout rate for the seventh consecutive year. The 2012-2013 dropout rate is 2.5 percent. This year’s rate improved by 0.4 percentage points from last year. The dropout rate is at its lowest point since 2003 when the rate was 2.4 percent. Colorado’s public schools generated 1,592 fewer dropouts in 2012-2013 than in the 2011-2012 school year. For more information, visit

The dropout rate reflects the percentage of all students enrolled in grades seven through 12 who leave school without transferring to another educational environment during a single school year. It is calculated by dividing the number of dropouts by a membership base, which includes all seventh- through 12th-grade students who were in membership any time during the year. 

Graduation Rate

The on-time graduation rate for the class of 2013 increased 1.5 percentage points to 76.9 percent as compared to last year. There were 877 more graduates in the class of 2013 than in the class of 2012. The on-time graduation rate stood at 75.4 percent for the class of 2012. 

The on-time graduation rate reflects the percentage of students from a given graduation class who receive a diploma within four years of completing 8th-grade. Individual district, school and statewide data are available at

“It’s encouraging to see the work of many Colorado school districts paying off in these steadily improving results,” said Rebecca Holmes, associate commissioner for Innovation, Choice, and Engagement at CDE. “It is critical to our students and to our state that we continue to identify ways to meet the needs of students who previously did not make it through to earning a high school diploma.”

A total of 126 (69 percent) Colorado school districts achieved a four-year on-time graduation rate at or above the state’s expectation of at least 80 percent. In Colorado, local school boards set their own graduation requirements which means expectations for earning a diploma may differ from district to district.

Closing the Gap

Graduation rate increases were seen across nearly all racial and ethnic groups. The rate for minority students increased at or faster than the rate for their white peers. Among racial and ethnic groups, the on-time graduation rate for the 2012-2013 school year was 61.4 percent for American Indian; 85.9 percent for Asian students; 69.5 percent for black students; 65.4 percent for Hispanic students; 82.8 percent for white students; 75.5 percent for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and 79 percent for students reported as two or more races. 


Statewide, the on-time graduation for females was 80.9 percent and the male graduation rate was 73.2 percent.  These rates reflect a slight narrowing of the on-time graduation rate gap between female and male students compared to last year’s rates of 79.5 and 71.4 respectively.

Completion Rate

Combining all graduates with those completers who receive a certificate, a designation of high school completion or a GED certificate determines the completion rate.  The 2012-2013 completion rate was 79.6 percent, while the 2011-2012 completion rate was 78.2 percent. 

Giving Students More Time

Colorado has been persistent in keeping students who fall short of graduation requirements  enrolled beyond their fourth year of high school and moving them to graduate in five or six years. 

“We see evidence that students take advantage of policies that give more time to work toward a high school diploma,” said Holmes. “The graduation rate for the class of 2011 increased from 73.9 percent as a four-year rate to 80.1 percent as a six-year rate.  This translates to more than 3,600 additional graduates from this class.  Districts and schools are finding ways to support students by making time a variable, and learning and college and career readiness the constant.”

Tools to Understand the Numbers

CDE has created a number of interactive tools and maps to better illustrate how the graduation and dropout rates look across the state. You can find them on the Graduation Statistics and Dropout Statistics web pages.