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News Release - Colorado's four-year graduation rate dips for first time in a decade

Jan. 11, 2022

Colorado's four-year graduation rate dips for first time in a decade

Statewide dropout rate stays the same through pandemic

DENVER – A total of 81.7% of the Class of 2021 graduated last spring – a slight decrease from the previous year and the first drop in the four-year graduation rate in over 10 years, according to data released today by the Colorado Department of Education.

The Class of 2021 had 622 more graduates than the Class of 2020, but the overall graduation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points because there were more total 12th graders enrolled than in the previous year. Despite the drop, Colorado’s four-year high school graduation rate has improved by 9.3 percentage points since 2010, when the state changed how the rate was reported. 

Extended year rates for students taking five, six and seven years to graduate showed marked improvement. 

“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,” said Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner. “It is a relief that the graduation rate is nearly the same as it was the previous year. With the state’s dropout rate also nearly unchanged, it is a concrete display of the dedication and determination of Colorado’s students, parents and teachers, especially during these tough times.”

State dropout rate 

The state’s 2020-21 overall dropout rate is 1.8%, which is the same as the previous year. In total, the state saw 8,292 students in grades seven through 12 drop out last year -- 169 fewer students from the previous year. A total of 74.6% of districts reported dropout rates at or below the state’s 1.8% rate. And 24.9% of districts reported that their dropout rates in 2020-21 were lower than their 2019-20 rates. The statewide dropout level continues to be the lowest mark in 10 years. 

Graduation rates by ethnicity and race

The four-year graduation rate for students of color for 2020-21 was 76.1%, a decrease of 1.0 percentage points from the previous year. The table below breaks down the four-year graduation and dropout rates by race/ethnicity for the Class of 2021. 


Graduation Rate


% point change from 2020

Dropout Rate

American Indian




















Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander





Two or More Races











Graduation and dropout rates by gender

The statewide, four-year graduation rate for females was 85.6% (28,663 graduates), a 0.2 percentage point increase from the 2019-20 rate. The male graduation rate was 77.9% (27,179 graduates), a 0.6 percentage point decrease from the previous year. The overall dropout rate for males was 2.2% and the female dropout rate was 1.3%.

Graduation rate by Instructional Program Service Type

The state also reports graduation and dropout rates by different programs and services that students may receive. A summary of the 2021 graduation and dropout rates for these programs is reported in the table below.

Instructional Program Service Type

Graduation Rate


% change from 2020

Dropout Rate

Students with Disabilities*





Limited English Proficient**





Economically Disadvantaged










Title I










Gifted and Talented





 *House Bill 19-1066 requires local education providers beginning in 2020-21 to count students with disabilities as graduates in the year at which they meet minimum graduation requirements, regardless of whether they will participate in transition programs in future years. The increases in four-, five-, six-, and seven-year graduation rates in 2021 likely show the impact of this legislation. 

**A student who comprehends, speaks, reads, or writes some English, but whose predominant comprehension or speech is in a language other than English; also includes students who are non-English proficient.


Completion rate

The completion rate combines all graduates with those who receive a certificate, a designation of high school completion, or a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED). The Class of 2021 had a four-year completion rate of 83.2% or 56,862 students. This is a 0.2 percentage point decrease from the previous year.

Multiple pathways

Work-based learning, apprenticeships, internships and concurrent enrollment classes are examples of ways Colorado high school students can earn college credit or obtain a postsecondary credential while still in high school. These programs bridge the gap between education and career, increase the relevancy of high school and open a wide variety of options after high school, including meaningful careers and college. Nearly all of Colorado’s school districts offered more than one postsecondary pathway option in the 2020-21 school year with 171 of the state’s 178 school districts offering three or more pathways. 

As part of their graduation requirements, school districts may adopt these pathways and others as options for students to demonstrate what they know or can do. Many districts used the state’s new graduation guidelines for students to demonstrate postsecondary and workforce readiness for students in the Class of 2021, yielding greater engagement and relevance for students, ultimately supporting increased graduation rates and decreased dropout rates.

Giving students more time

Colorado supports students continuing in high school who need more time to meet graduation requirements or who are participating in specific high school postsecondary programs. In Colorado, students may remain enrolled beyond their fourth year of high school to graduate in five, six or seven years after entering ninth grade.

  • A total of 9.7% (6,614 students) of students in the Class of 2021 remain enrolled and could graduate or complete in five, six or seven years from entering ninth grade.

  • For the Class of 2020, the five-year state graduation rate was 86%, 4.1 percentage points higher than the Class of 2020’s four-year rate of 81.9%, suggesting that many students benefit from the additional time they are given to meet their goals for after high school. The five-year completion rate was 88%.

  • For the Class of 2019, the six-year state graduation rate was 86.6% (compared to a four-year rate of 81.1%). The six-year completion rate was 89%.

Tools to understand the numbers

CDE has created interactive tools and maps to better illustrate how the graduation and dropout rates look across the state.

Graduation statistics are available on this webpage. 

Dropout statistics are available on this webpage.

Statewide four-year graduation rates 

Class of 2021

81.7%, 55,842 graduates

Class of 2020

81.9%, 55,220 graduates 

Class of 2019

81.1%, 54,239 graduates

Class of 2018

80.7%, 53,240 graduates

Statewide five-year graduation rates

Class of 2020

86.0%, 57,841 graduates

Class of 2019

85.1%, 56,805 graduates

Class of 2018

84.9%, 55,800 graduates

Statewide six-year graduation rates

Class of 2019

86.6%, 57,792 graduates

Class of 2018

86.2%, 56,699 graduates

Statewide seven-year graduation rates

Class of 2018

87.0%, 57,169 graduates