Graduation rates for both the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts improved with the Class of 2020 and continued to beat the state, the Colorado Department of Education reported Tuesday.

The state’s graduation rate also hit its highest level in a decade, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that upended the academic year and closed schools in March. Last spring, 81.9% of high school seniors — 55,220 students — graduated from public and charter schools in Colorado.

St. Vrain’s four-year graduation rate went up to 87.8% from the previous year’s rate of 86.3% — continuing a steady improvement over the past decade. If students have extra time, graduating after five years, St. Vrain’s graduation rate is almost 90%.

“It’s the highest graduation rate we’ve ever seen, and that’s with one of the highest graduation requirements in the state,” said St. Vrain Superintendent Don Haddad. “It’s not a one-time spike. It’s a steady trajectory.”

St. Vrain requires 24.5 credits to graduate, including three years of math and science. The district also has seen increases in students taking advanced classes, earning career and technical certifications or earning an associate degree along with a high school diploma through a P-TECH — or Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools — program.

“They’re graduating with a strong competitive advantage,” Haddad said.

He noted the four-year graduation rate for the district’s eight traditional high schools is up to 90.3%, while the graduation rate for Hispanic students improved to 83.3% from 79.3% the year before and about 55% 10 years ago.

“You can see that achievement gap close dramatically,” he said. “I’m very proud of our students. We ask a lot of them.”

Boulder Valley saw its 2020 four-year graduation rate improve to 91.1%, up slightly from 90.8% the previous year.

The district’s graduation rate for Hispanic students is 83%, up from 82% the year before. Graduation rates also improved for several other student groups, including Black students, English language learners and low-income students.

“That’s fantastic news,” Superintendent Rob Anderson said at Tuesday’s school board meeting, adding the district also saw the number of students earning Career and Technical Education certifications double in 2020 from the previous year. “Those are all great signs of things working well in our school district.”

Drop-out rates in both districts improved.

St. Vrain Valley’s overall dropout rate is down to .8%, or 132 students, from 1% the previous year. When alternative schools are excluded, the dropout rate is 0.7%. The dropout rate for Hispanic students is 1.5%, down from 1.8% the year before.

Boulder Valley’s overall dropout rate was cut in half, to to 0.4%, or 72 students, from 0.8%, or 123 students, the previous year. When alternative schools are excluded, the district’s dropout rate falls to 0.2%. The district’s Hispanic dropout rate is 1.2%.

The state’s dropout rate also improved. During the 2019-2020 school year, 8,561 seventh- through 12th-graders, or 1.8%, left the education system — the lowest rate in a decade, the department said.

Given the pandemic and surrounding circumstances, Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a statement that a rising graduation rate and falling dropout rate were “wonderful accomplishments.”

“We know how tough the spring was for our seniors, with many not able to attend their proms or graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Anthes said. “But we are so proud of the students, their parents and the teachers who helped them finish the year strong. History will look back at this generation of children and marvel at their perseverance and dedication.”

The Denver Post contributed to this report.

Boulder Valley’s 4-year graduation rates

  • Arapahoe Ridge: 60%
  • Boulder: 95%
  • Boulder Universal: 83.3%
  • Boulder Prep Charter: 34.9%
  • Broomfield: 95.3%
  • Centaurus: 92.1%
  • Fairview: 97.5%
  • Justice: 23.3%
  • Monarch: 96.8%
  • New Vista: 87%
  • Nederland: 85.7%
  • Peak to Peak Charter: 99.3%

District total: 91.1%

St. Vrain Valley’s 4-year graduation rates

  • Erie: 94.9%
  • Frederick: 87.3%
  • Longmont High: 86.1%
  • Lyons: 97.6%
  • Mead: 92.5%
  • Niwot: 96.3%
  • Olde Columbine: 48.5%
  • Silver Creek: 90.9%
  • St. Vrain Global Online: 40.7%
  • Skyline: 84.2%
  • Twin Peaks Charter: 90%

District total: 87.8%

Source: Colorado Department of Education