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Prairie View, BHS graduate students at rates above state average

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By Andrea Tritschler

Brighton and Prairie View High School seniors graduate on time slightly more often than their peers do around the state, according to Colorado Department of Education statistics.

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Brighton High School’s graduation rate was 81 percent for the Class of 2017, up 2.3 percent from the 78.70 percent posted for the Class of 2016. The state average was 79 percent

Prairie View High School’s graduation rate fell slightly to 84.30 percent in 2017 from 86.10 percent in 2016.

PVHS teachers and other staff have reached out to Hispanic students and others who are considered to be “in jeopardy” to keep a stable, above-average graduation rate through recent years, said Principal Jaime White.

“Being able to communicate with families and counselors is important. We have implemented jeopardy meetings after the first semester of freshman year for kids who are struggling,” White said.

“We meet with kids and parents and tell them how to get caught back up. We’ve begun freshmen-level credit recovery, instead of letting it pile up.”

Teacher mentors have kept many PVHS students from falling through the cracks, officials said.

At the same time, Brighton Heritage Academy, the district’s alternative high school at 830 E. Bridge St., had a graduation rate of 14.4 percent in 2017, down 5 percent from a 19.4 percent rate in 2016.

While that rate may seem low, the school actually often keeps its students for a longer time period that might not otherwise graduate from high school at all, said Will Pierce, chief academic officer for the school district.

“As a district we are really clear that we want kids to graduate regardless of the time,” Pierce said.  “And with BHA, a lot of those rates aren’t as high because we actively go out and find kids who have exited the system and bring them back to Heritage ... That school is saving a lot of kids.”

Pierce said he is more interested in the district’s seven-year, high school graduation rates, which haven’t been released yet for the Class of 2017. Those rates are more indicative of how the school district is doing, Pierce said.

“We always go back and actively look to get students that were in the district in one course in time back to graduate. Some districts just don’t do that. Our dropout rate will reduce but our grad rates will drop,” Pierce said. “We will always be hurting our graduation average with that strategy.”  

When the Brighton Heritage Academy numbers and other high school numbers were taken into account, of the 1,091 high-school seniors in the school district, 844 graduated in 2017, or 77.4 percent of students.

That was just .1 percent less than the previous school year.

The district’s rate has remained consistent since 2010, when the state department of education changed how it measured graduates. Since the change, the district’s numbers have remained between 71.5 percent (2012) and 79.8 percent (2014).

Brighton’s other high schools performed well in 2017, Pierce said.

BOLT Academy, the all-online high school program, had a graduation rate of 75 percent, a 19 percent increase from the previous year and the highest rate it has had since the school started five years ago.

“That puts them in the top five schools for online schools in Colorado,” Pierce said.

The Eagle Ridge Academy charter school, which is not run by the school district, has a 98 percent graduation rate for 2017, graduating 99 of 101 students in four years. In 2016, the graduation rate was 90.3 percent.

With Riverdale Ridge High School opening in the fall, the graduation numbers for the upcoming school year could be higher, officials said.

“If it does have an impact, it would be a positive one,” White said. “(The current) overcrowding does have an impact on everything."

Closing the gap

PVHS administrators are working to close a “graduation gap” between white students and minority students, said Principal Jaime White.

The graduation rate for white students last year was 89.2 percent at Prairie View High School. The graduation rate for Hispanic students was 82.9 percent.

“We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years learning how to communicate with Hispanic and ELL (English Language Learner) students and making more of an effort,” White said. 

Part of the success is due to revamped ELL support and staff training for students learning English to help get them through the classes and toward graduation, White said. 

The graduation rate for Hispanic males was higher in 2017 than for white males (83.1 percent compared to 76.1 percent for white males).

“A lot of that is outreach and re-engaging and giving more mentoring and support,” White said.