GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — The state of Colorado saw a drop in the high school graduation rate last year for the first time in more than a decade. While state data shows the graduation rate dropped by 0.2 percentage points in 2021, School District 51’s graduation rate continued to climb for the second consecutive year.

The four-year graduation rate measures how many students who started ninth-grade in the 2017-18 school year earned their high school diploma in 2020-21. District 51’s graduation rate for the Class of 2021 was 81%, up from 80.2% for the Class of 2020 and 79.6% for the Class of 2019. The upward trend in graduation rates over the past two years is due in no small part to D51 having minimal disruptions in in-person learning, according to D51 Assistant Superintendent Brian Hill, Ed.D.

“While our goal is to graduate all D51 students ready for college, career, and life, we are encouraged to see the district’s graduation rate trending upward, and we will continue our efforts in order to see this trend continue for years to come,”  Dr. Hill said. “The hard work our students, teachers, and staff put in last year to return to in-person learning – the largest district in the state to do so – and stay in-person is paying off.”

The state also released dropout rate data today. While the district’s dropout rate increased slightly from 1.7% in 2019-20 to 1.9% in 2020-21, D51 dropout statistics remain on par with the state average, which was 1.8% both this year and last year. The gap between the district and state dropout rate has greatly narrowed since 2018-19, when the state dropout rate was 2% and the district dropout rate was 2.7%.

The graduation rate and the dropout rate combined do not equal 100%. That’s because the graduation rate is for one grade of students only, while the dropout rate is an average for all grades 7-12 combined. Students who do not graduate with their class don’t always drop out – some get a GED or earn their diplomas at a later time (students can attend high school until age 21). In addition to the four-year graduation rate, the state tracks five-year, six-year, and seven-year graduation rates, as well as completion rates that include GED-earners.