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Weld Re-8 closing gap on state graduation rates

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By Ben Wiebesiek

FORT LUPTON — The Colorado Department of Education released its graduation and dropout rates for students this month, and Fort Lupton schools are closing the gap with state averages.

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For the 2012-13 school year, the graduation rate for Weld Re-8 schools 74.5 percent, down slightly from the 75.2 percent from the year before. 

 

The class of 2013 numbers are slightly lower than the state average graduation rate, which was 76.9 percent, but the gap is much closer than it was five years ago. In 2009, the state graduation rate was 74.6 percent, while the rate at Fort Lupton schools was 60.6 percent.

This is an accomplishment that Scott Graham, Weld Re-8 executive director of academic support services, credits to a program implemented to help high school students manage the transition from middle school.

“We’ve done a lot of stuff at Fort Lupton High School to increase the graduation rate; probably the biggest one is institution of a freshman academy that all freshman come into,” Graham said. “And it’s kind of a collaborative model of social studies and language arts teachers where they share the group of students between them, and that way it’s a little bit like a middle school model where there are teams that share the students but it allows the teachers and the students to form more of a community and to keep track of how the students are doing and make sure they’re not falling behind.” 

Not every student completes school by the same path, so along with the CDE graduation numbers, the department released the broader completion rate stats, which include students who finished school through alternate pathways.

The completion rate for Weld Re-8 in 2013 was 77.9 percent by this metric, with the state average at 79.6 percent.

Graham said the academies helped identify students who needed academic attention before the student dropped out.

“I think the biggest difference that the freshman academies made is that it’s really reduced the failure rate of ninth grade students,” Graham said. “That ninth-grade year is tough for students and I think that these freshman academies made a difference in that.”

The completion rate dipped between the class of 2012 (81.5 percent), which in turn was higher than the class of 2011 (76.1 percent).

“There’s ups and downs from year to year but we’re definitely seeing that trend data going up,” Graham said. “And this year, we’re working in a collaboration with the University of Virginia’s turnaround school project and that has really changed some of the practices of teachers throughout the district with more focused on planning and meeting on student achievement. So we’re actually very encouraged this year that we’re going to continue going up as far as the numbers are concerned.”

A lot of the intervention takes place in education efforts, Graham said, to give students the planning skills they need for high school

“So they work with the counselors that work with the freshman academy — that group of teachers — to really plan forward and have a good idea of where they’re going to be,” Graham said. “So that’s another thing that gives them an idea that there is school beyond ninth grade; there is something to do and not to be planning that as soon as they are 17, ‘Oh, I can legally drop out.’ Unfortunately some students start out with that plan, and it’s our job to kind of change that plan for them and let them see the possibilities of what they can have after high school.”

 

Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.