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News Release - Colorado graduation rates remain steady; slight rise in number of students dropping out

Colorado graduation rates remain steady; slight rise in number of students dropping out 

Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education show a small increase in the state’s high school dropout rate. This is the first increase in the rate after eight consecutive years of decreases. The 2014-2015 dropout rate is 2.5 percent. This year’s rate increased by 0.1 percentage points from last year’s 2.4 percent rate. Colorado’s public schools saw 568 more students drop out in 2014-2015 than in the 2013-2014 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 2015 remained unchanged from 2014 at 77.3 percent.
There were 298 more graduates in the class of 2015 than in the class of 2014.

The on-time graduation rate reflects the percentage of students from a given graduation class who receive a diploma within four years of completing eighth grade. Interactive tools for analysis of individual district, school and statewide data are available at   

A total of 144 (78 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, course requirements and an exit criterion, which means expectations for earning a diploma, may differ from district to district.

“The department is concerned about the small increase in the dropout rate,” said Gretchen Morgan, interim associate commissioner of innovation, choice and engagement at CDE. “We know that earning a diploma or GED can have life-long impact on young people.  We think there are important lessons to be learned from schools and districts who continue to reduce dropout rates this year.  Now that the data is released, we will shift our focus to learning about those programs.”   

Achievement Gap Narrows

The on-time graduation rate for minority students across the state rose 1.1 percentage points from 69.2 percent to 70.3 percent. This is the first year the on-time graduation rate for minority students has been above 70 percent.  The on-time graduation rate for the 2014-2015 school year was 64 percent for American Indian students; 88.1 percent for Asian students; 69.8 percent for black students; 67.6 percent for Hispanic students; 82.6 percent for white students; 74.5 percent for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and 79.7 percent for students reported as two or more races.                                                                                                                                  


Statewide, the on-time graduation for females was 81.2 percent and the male graduation rate was 73.6 percent. 

Completion Rate

The completion rate is determined by combining all graduates with those completers who receive a certificate, a designation of high school completion or a GED certificate.  The 2014-2015 completion rate was 78.8 percent, reflecting an additional 917 students who finished their high school education this year without receiving a traditional diploma.

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 continue to see value in offering additional time to students,” said Morgan. “This year, as in past years, there are significant increases in graduation rates when we include students who graduate in their fifth-and sixth-year.  In fact, of the 11,114 students who dropped out in 2014, 3,023 have re-engaged and enrolled in school this year.  We hope to see them in the 5th or 6th year graduate rate for their cohorts.” For the class of 2014, the graduation rate increased 4.4 percentage points to 81.7 percent when given an additional year.  The class of 2013 increased 5.57 percentage points to 82.47 percent when including two additional years.

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.