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D60's Graduation Rates Continue to Improve, Bypass State Average

For the fourth straight year, Pueblo School District 60’s four-year graduation rate has eclipsed the overall state mark, according to data released this week by the Colorado Department of Education.  A Central student poses with her diploma outside the school

In 2020, and in spite of the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic, D60 saw 82.6% of its students graduate on time. Statewide, 81.9% of students earned a diploma within the four-year time frame: the highest mark in a decade.

Additionally, D60’s dropout rate continues to decline, with just 1.3% of its student body leaving school in 2020. By comparison, the state’s dropout rate during that same time span was 1.8%: the lowest mark in a decade.

Since 2016, D60’s on-time four-year graduation rate has increased by an impressive 8.7%, while the dropout rate has fallen from 3.8% in 2015 to the current mark of 1.3%.

Individually, Central High School, East High School and Paragon Learning Center increased their four-year graduation rates from 2019 to 2020. Notably, Central increased its four-year graduation rate by 15.3% from 2019 to 2020 and saw its dropout rate fall by 2.3% in that same time span.

Along with Central, Paragon and South High School lowered their dropout rates from 2019 to 2020.

The district’s continued strong showing against the state’s overall graduation rate is a tangible testament to the flexibility and resolve of its educators and support staff, who in March 2020 were placed in the unenviable position of having to quickly transition to remote learning once Colorado schools were ordered closed.

Despite the formidable challenges these unchartered educational waters posed for educators and students, the district was unwavering in its commitment to those it serves, quickly adapting to the distance model in order to keep all students academically engaged and the Class of 2020 on track to earn diplomas.

On Tuesday, the D60 board of education received a report on these encouraging statistics from Tiffany Dehn, the district’s Assessment Data Specialist for Learning Services.

Citing the information as cause for celebration, District 60 Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso said a strong team effort was responsible for the vibrant showing.

“We’re always happy when we continue to increase our graduation rate and decrease the dropout rate, and I want to congratulate our district,” Superintendent Macaluso said. “Affirmations to all of the schools and their staff: Central had a significant increase, and they are to be commended, as well as all schools.

“This is truly a team effort, from teachers to counselors to community advocates. Everybody works hard to support our students.”

Superintendent Macaluso also noted that more work is still needed to meet the needs of the whole of the district student body.

“We still have 17% of our students who are not graduating,” she said. “Recently, we embarked on a ninth-grade success initiative, and I want to commend the staff who are involved in that, because I truly believe that will make a difference in terms of examining the practices we have in place.

“Because for 17% of our students, we have a system that’s not working. So we must not lose sight, because we want every one of our students to be successful and lead a life of purpose and impact.”

Board member Judge Dennis Maes expressed his pleasure at the continued improvement displayed by District 60.

“I want to say how proud I am of the entire school district network,” Judge Maes said. “Our graduation rate goes up, our dropout rate goes down.”

Recognizing that Paragon Learning Center/Dutch Clark Digital has increased its graduation rate while lowering the dropout rate in the online school’s first two years of operation, Judge Maes added, “I want to give a special thanks to (Dutch Clark Principal) Mr. Rich Mestas and the folks at Paragon for the enormous strides that have been made over the last two years.

“So whatever it is we’re doing, let’s keep it up. It’s really exciting to get this report.”