AURORA | The Cherry Creek School District reached a record high graduation rate of 90.7% in 2021, according to 2020-2021 graduation data the Colorado Department of Education released Tuesday.
The district bucked a statewide trend, which found that Colorado’s four-year graduation rate decreased slightly for the first time in a decade. Statewide, 81.7% of the class of 2021 graduated last spring, compared to 81.9% in the class of 2020.
Cherry Creek’s graduation rate went up nearly 2 percentage points from 88.6% of eligible students in the spring of 2020, putting it at a record high.
“I am so proud of our students and what they have been able to accomplish during their time with Cherry Creek Schools,” Superintendent Chris Smith said in a news release. “This graduation rate is a testament to the hard work, determination and resilience of our students, as well as their teachers and families, amid a disruptive global pandemic.”
In neighboring Aurora Public Schools, the graduation rate dipped slightly. In 2021, 76.2% of seniors graduated, compared to 79% in 2020. The 2020 graduation rate was exactly the same as in 2019, however, and just below its 2018 rate, according to state education department data.
Although the statewide dip may be statistically insignificant, it represents the first time in 10 years that Colorado’s annual graduation rate didn’t increase.
“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, in a released statement. “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.”
However, racial disparities increased in the past year with students of color seeing drops in their graduation rates where white students didn’t. Students identified as Indigenous or Hispanic posted the largest drops among racial groups in graduation rates this year. Black students also showed a drop.
Districts with large portions of students from low-income families also posted drops in their rate compared with last year. In the metro area, Sheridan, Englewood, and Westminster school districts had some of the largest drops, despite all having posted increases in 2020.
Statewide, the rate of students completing high school in five, six, or seven years, has continued to increase. A total of 9.7% of the Class of 2021, or about 6,614 students, remain enrolled and could still finish high school in their fifth, sixth, or seventh year.
Chalkbeat Colorado contributed to this report