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Opinion – Local high school grad rates high, but so are remedial course needs in college

A recent article by CU alum Yesenia Robles for the Denver Post brought to light how more high school kids are graduating in a four-year period. But there is a slight setback.

As the article notes, while 2010 saw 72.4 percent of high school students graduate in four years, a slight increase from 2009 when applying the same formula, a majority of those graduating are doing so without the sufficient preparation for college-level courses.

So they have to take easier courses. Easy enough right? The problem is, this setback is costing in-state colleges like CU, Metro and Western State a combined $19 million in 2009-10 to serve the needs of these students.

To fulfill the remediation needs the colleges are spending quite a bit. This figure is up from $13 million in the previous year.

And in an economic climate so ripe with budget cuts, reductions and general turmoil, that combined $19 million is an eye sore for colleges.

I attended an Aurora Public School, a district rated with an unimpressive 45.5 percent graduation rate in 2010, and a weaker 44.4 percent in 2009—the year my younger brother and cousin took the podium and received their diplomas.

With such low graduation rates, these schools cannot compete with Littleton and Cherry Creek Public School’s in terms of sending students to school. At Littleton Public Schools, attending college is the standard rather than the exception.

Also on the list of the top five high schools that graduate students in need of remedial courses is Montbello High. One of my roommates’ lives a couple blocks from the school.

I asked him what he made of the statistic.

“Not that surprising,” he said with a grin.

Also on the list is Aurora Central High School. The Trojans were my alma mater’s, Hinkely High, biggest rivals. They rank third in the state, two spots above Montbello.

Not surprisingly, all the top five schools on the list reside in Denver or the surrounding Metro area.

The worst performer overall is West High School, which posts a 47.6 percent grad rate with 90 percent of those who graduate needing remedial courses.

So the question I pose is this: should educators focus on graduation rates with classes that will make graduation easier rather than preparing them for the challenges of college courses? Obviously, most schools are doing both. But not all are succeeding.

In a perfect system, the low ranking schools would do both. But it ain’t perfect.

Keep this mind when choosing an answer. Robles points out a correlation. Students requiring remedial course are more prone to dropping out in college.

So it looks like for students attending these low-rating schools, even if they end up in college, their arrival on a college campus carries with it a stigma.

But let’s not get carried away. It only makes the presence of those students more valuable, more impressive. So whether you arrive to a school like the University of Colorado, Metro State, Adams State or Regis University from Cherry Creek or Lincoln in Denver, it’s still quite an accomplishment.

The only difference is when you graduate from a school like Lincoln, that graduation itself is just as impressive.

About Esteban L. Hernandez

Reporter in Connecticut.


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