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Dropout Statistics - FAQ

Q: Who is considered a dropout?

A: By Colorado law, a dropout is defined as a "person who leaves school for any reason, except death, before completion of a high school diploma or its equivalent, and who does not transfer to another public or private school or enroll in an approved home study program." A student is not a dropout if he/she transfers to an educational program recognized by the district, completes a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) or registers in a program leading to a HSED, is committed to an institution that maintains educational programs, or is so ill that he/she is unable to participate in a homebound or special therapy program. Students who reach the age of 21 before receiving a diploma or designation of completion (“age-outs”) are also counted as dropouts.

Q: What is the dropout rate?

A: The Colorado dropout rate is an annual rate, reflecting the percentage of all students enrolled in grades 7-12 who leave school during a single school year without subsequently attending another school or educational program. It is calculated by dividing the number of dropouts by a membership base which includes all students who were in membership any time during the year. In accordance with a 1993 legislative mandate, beginning with the 1993-94 school year, the dropout rate calculation excludes expelled students.

Q: Under what circumstances is a student reported as a transfer?

A: For purposes of the dropout rate, a ‘transfer’ is a student who enrolls in another school that awards a diploma, or who enrolls in a HSED program, or enrolls in a home-based education program (home school) pursuant to 22-33-104.5. A student is considered a transfer to another district or educational program in Colorado if the receiving school or program sends confirmation of attendance and enrollment, or, if the student transfers to a home-based education program, a signed notification from the student’s parent or guardian can serve as official documentation of transfer. Additional documentation requirements are available depending on a student's transfer status. Please see the adequate documentation page for more information.

Q: What if a student just disappears?

A: A student in 7th through 12th grade who stops attending school or does not return to school at the beginning of the school year is considered a dropout unless the original district can obtain official documentation that the student transferred to another educational program. Please see the adequate documentation page for more information.

Q: What is adequate documentation and when did Colorado begin requiring this documentation?

A: Beginning in 2005, CCR 301-67 - “Rules for the Administration of Colorado Data Reporting for School Accreditation” - required Colorado’s school districts to obtain adequate documentation of transfer for all students who transfer from the district to attend a school outside the state or country, a private school, or a home-based education program. Adequate documentation is defined as an official request for academic records from the student’s new school or, in the case of a home-based education program, a signed form from a parent or legal guardian. If the district cannot obtain this documentation, the student must be reported as a dropout. Districts and schools serving highly mobile student populations were potentially affected by this provision to a much greater degree. Please see the adequate documentation page for a list of specific documentation required for specific transfer circumstances.

Q: Can the dropout rate be multiplied by four to find out how many students drop out over the four years of high school?

A: No. The dropout rate is an annual rate only. It is not statistically valid to multiply the annual rate by four to find out how many students dropped out during high school. Similarly, it is not statistically valid to multiply the dropout rate by four and subtract this number from 100 to determine the graduation rate.

Q: Can a student drop out more than once? How does that affect the annual dropout rate?

A: Some students have a pattern of dropping out and returning to school several times before they either graduate or drop out and do not return. In the state reporting system, a student is counted as a dropout only once within a given reporting period (i.e., from July 1 through June 30). However, if a student drops out during one school year, then returns to school the following year and drops out again, he/she will be counted in the dropout rate two years in a row.

Q: Are students who transfer to a HSED program counted as dropouts?

A: No. For the purposes of the dropout rate, students who enter a HSED program not run by a Colorado school district are counted as transfers and not as dropouts. However, these students will negatively affect the graduation rate for the district, school, and cohort they last attended, because they will be added to the graduation base (or graduation rate denominator) whether they receive a HSED certificate or not.

Q: How valid are Colorado's dropout rates?

A: The Colorado Department of Education provides definitions, guidelines, and training regarding the proper procedures for identifying and reporting dropout statistics. The data are edited and screened upon receipt and a summary document with the calculated rates is returned to the district for verification. In submitting the data to the state, each superintendent signs an assurance that the district has followed the required procedures.

Q: How is dropout data reported?

A: Dropout data is reported annually to the Department by Colorado school districts. Dropout data is collected for grades 7-12, by school building and by district. Data is reported separately by gender, ethnicity/race, Instructional Program Service Type, and grade level of students. See the Student End of Year data collection website for more information about dropout data reporting.

Q: Where can I get my local dropout rate?

A: Colorado Department of Education publishes district-level and school-level rates on the Dropout Statistics webpage.

Q: Why doesn’t the high school completer, still enrolled and dropout rate add up to 100%?

A: Adding the dropout, completer (which includes Graduates and HSED completers), and still enrolled rates will not equal 100%. These rates will not add up to 100% because the completer and still enrolled rates use a set of students based on graduation cohort rather than the annual count of students used for the dropout rate.

The dropout rate is calculated based on all students enrolled within the district between the 7th and 12th grade for the current year. It is an annual calculation of students who dis-enroll without providing documentation of transfer. If a student drops out of school in 2017-18, they will be counted in the 2017-18 Dropout Rate even if they later re-enroll in the 2018-19 school year.

The denominator for the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rate is based on the students with a common anticipated year of graduation (AYG). A student’s AYG is set when a student enters the 9th grade. Four years are added to the current school year and this will become the student’s AYG. All students who last attended a school with a common AYG are grouped together and this set is used to calculate the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rates. Students who drop out of a school will remain part of that school’s AYG cohort group until they re-enroll elsewhere or provide documentation of their educational status.

As a result, the students within the set of data used to calculate the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rate is not the same as the group of students used to calculate the annual dropout rate. Since these calculations use two different sets of data, it does not make sense to add the percentages associated with these calculations together. Typically, the denominator for the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rates will be much smaller than the number of students used to determine the dropout rates because the dropout rate represents all students in the 7-12th grade range.

Q: What methods are used to protect student data privacy for aggregate reporting?

A. Click here to view the Graduation, Dropout, Mobility Rates: Aggregate Data Privacy page.

For additional information, email Reagan Ward,