Durango aims to strengthen graduates’ skills

Staff members of the Durango School District have been spending time this fall discussing and reviewing graduation statistics.

We know as a district that we must continue to focus on our graduation rate, but we also recognize that this should include a strong look at the quality and preparation of our graduates for their next chosen step in life.

A quick review of graduation rates shows that our district has hovered between 69 percent and 75 percent of our students graduating on time in a four-year time period. What is not reflected in this number are students who choose to remain in high school because of special-education programs or because of a requirement for additional classes before graduation. These students are reflected as non-completers and affect this rate.

Furthermore, some of our students choose to work through our partner, the Durango Adult Education Center, to enter a General Education Diploma program based on personal needs. When we look at students completing with either a diploma or a GED, our percentage last year increases to almost 90 percent.

While we need to monitor this statistic, our focus must also be on the preparation of our graduates to be successful in whatever post-secondary option they choose to pursue. The graduation system in public education has been historically based on a system of “credits.” Students have earned credits for attending and passing required courses, even with a grade of a “D.” This system has led to some students earning a diploma even when they lack skills for success.

Whether it is employment, technical education, college or the military, the skills students need today to be successful are not very different for any of these choices. Today, entrance requirements for the military are as stringent as many colleges.

This year, our board of education has adopted a new Results Policy defining College and Career Readiness, upon which we will measure the successful preparation of our students and the quality of our graduates. This criterion includes students achieving proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics at levels that would prevent the need for remediation in college, as well as demonstrating critical skills necessary to read, write, communicate and do math in their career choice. It also involves the demonstration of higher levels of proficiency than a “D” in coursework.

Next school year, Colorado will adopt criteria for a PWR-endorsed diploma (Post-Secondary/Workforce Ready) that will guarantee admittance of students who earn the endorsement to a variety of Colorado colleges and universities. Our College and Career Ready requirements are very similar thus providing guidance to students now in preparation for this new state endorsement.

We will begin a review of graduation requirements in the coming year to ensure that we adopt graduation requirements that guarantee that all students are adequately prepared with skills to ensure their future success. Our district is exploring ways of providing alternate means for students to demonstrate mastery, increasing access to college courses and career training before graduation.

So as we think about graduation requirements, our two areas of focus will be around the implementation of new supports for students who are struggling, as well as preparing students for success beyond high school. Comments and feedback are always welcome at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.

Daniel Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District.