Colorado Department of Education reports four-year graduation rate increase for 2019-20

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: January 15, 2021

After a number of difficult months for students across the state, the Colorado Department of Education released a promising new report this past week on student achievement. According to CDE data published on Jan. 12, a total of 81.9 percent of high school students graduated on time last spring, a 0.8 percentage point increase from 2019. These data also revealed a 0.5 percentage point increase in the four-year completion rate, which combines all graduates with those who receive a designation of high school completion, certificate or a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED).

The state also saw an improvement in its dropout rate during the 2019-20 school year, with the overall percentage falling to 1.8. This number shows a 0.2 percentage point decrease from the 2019 school year, placing the statewide dropout rate at its lowest level in 10 years.

These data demonstrate progress in closing the equity gap amongst students in Colorado who have historically faced barriers in the classroom. To account for disparities, the report broke down graduation and dropout rates based on ethnicity, race, gender and instructional service program type to reveal the following:

  • The gap in graduation rates between white students and students of color is closing. The four-year graduation rate for students of color in 2019-20 was 77.1 percent, showing an increase of 1.6 percentage points.
  • The statewide, four-year graduation rate for females and males increased by 0.6 and 0.9 percentage points, respectively. The overall dropout rate for females was 1.5 percent. For males, the rate was 2.1 percent.
  • Graduation rates increased for students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, students who are economically disadvantaged, and students who are migrants, among other groups.

Along with improved graduation rates and declining dropout rates, Colorado continues to see increased pathways through which high school students can obtain college credit or earn postsecondary credentials while still in high school. These programs include apprenticeships, internships, work-based learning, and concurrent enrollment courses. In the 2019-2020 school year, 171 of 178 Colorado school districts offered three or more pathways to earn postsecondary credit.

Although these numbers reveal that the global pandemic did not have a negative impact on graduation and dropout rates in the 2019-20 school year, we have yet to see the pandemic’s full effect on student achievement.  This is especially alarming considering the lack of clarity currently surrounding student assessments in spring 2021.  While the CDE predicts graduation and dropout rates to be impacted in 2020-21, the extent will not be known until the end of the academic year.

The full report published by the CDE can be found here.

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About Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit