BRIGHTON — Despite more students graduating on time across Colorado last year, Brighton 27J School District saw a slight decline in their on-time graduation rate for 2012.
Data released by the Colorado Department of Education shows on-time graduation rates for high school students across the state increased 1.5 percent to 75.4 percent. However, on-time graduation rates for 27J decreased 1.4 percent last year to 71.5 percent.
Chief Academic Officer Kelly Corbett said the district will not be satisfied until 100 percent of students are graduating.
“That’s the passion that we really have to approach that by. It’s not okay in today’s world for anybody to not graduate because it’s literally a stepping stone that’s required in life, so that’s the target,” he said. “Are we doing okay? Yeah, I’d give us an okay.”
Corbett couldn’t point to a specific reason for the overall decrease, and citing a number of variables making it challenging to isolate one issue in a “great big pot” — among them, he cited budget cuts and lost positions, transition in staff, school crowding and increased instructional rigor in classrooms.
Of the districts high schools, Prairie View High School has the highest on-time graduation rate with 79.6 percent. Eagle Ridge Academy’s graduation rate also exceeds the state average with 77.8 percent of students graduating on time. Brighton High School and Brighton Heritage Academy’s on-time graduation rates (73.8 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively) both came in under the state’s average.
“Brighton Heritage Academy is an alternative school and they do have a very low graduation rate, but that’s due to the nature of the beast,” Corbett said. “These are kids that have not been successful, these are kids whose lives have had many transitions, so many of those kids come to Brighton Heritage Academy as a last chance or they’ve…bounced around a lot.”
Director of Organizational Measurement Peggy Robertson also noted that fewer students go to Brighton Heritage Academy and that classes are smaller in comparison to the district’s other high schools. District data also shows the longer students are enrolled in Brighton Heritage Academy, the more likely they are to graduate.
The CDE has also found that giving students more time helps improve graduation rates and has been persistent in keeping non-graduates enrolled beyond their fourth year of high school. The district’s graduation rates became slightly higher (0.5 percent and 0.7 percent higher, respectively) than the state average when students graduate during their fifth and sixth year of high school.
School District 27J is also seeing fewer students dropping out of school. During the 2011-12 academic year, 2.7 percent of students dropped out of the district, 0.2 percent fewer than the state. Although the dropout rate is slightly higher than last year — by 0.1 percent — it is down 1.3 percent from five years ago.
“We’re pretty excited about that one, the dropout rate,” she said. “We’re not on anybody’s radar ... we prefer no kids dropped out but by the same token, it is decreasing.”
The district plans to continue working to improve student achievement and graduation rates. Corbett said the district is really working on rigor through the implementation of the thinking classrooms, where students move from acquiring knowledge to thinking and applying that knowledge. He also said the district is paying close attention to students who have not had a college model through the Advance Via Individual Determination Program, a nationally renowned college readiness program.
Robertson said the district has recently implemented a new program called Individual Career Academic Plan, where students from the sixth grade on can map out their careers and set the goals (such as graduating) to help them achieve a specified career. She said the district is also beginning to explore the possibility of an online blended school that could have an impact on the graduation rates.
Robertson said the district knows that parent involvement is important for student achievement.
“Parent outreach and parent involvement efforts are always a topic of conversation and will continue to be because they can’t do it without us and we can’t do it without them,” she said.
Corbett said it goes back to the saying it takes a whole village to raise a child.
“It’s really about getting everybody involved, our parents, our community, our teachers our students — we need everybody to be involved. It’s unacceptable to our community that we don’t have 100 percent of our graduates,” he said, adding he’s also proud of the community because it’s still the size where “we can do it.”