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Graduation rates: Different issues face neighboring schools

Bayfield High strives to maintain strong numbers; Ignacio focuses on growth
Mortarboards are tossed at the end of the 2017 Ignacio High School commencement.

When examining graduation rates, Bayfield and Ignacio high schools face two almost polar opposite challenges.

Bayfield High must work to maintain high graduation rates that frequently finish at the top in La Plata County. In 2018, BHS's four-year graduation rate came in at 89.5 percent, the best in the county and well above the state's 80.7 average graduation rate. In fact, the 2018 rate was a drop for BHS. In 2017, its graduation rate was 91.1 percent.

Ignacio High strives to improve a graduation rate that annually struggles to reach the state average. In 2018, IHS's four-year graduation rate was 78.1 percent. That's an improvement from 2017, when its graduation rate was 75 percent.

Ignacio High School

Kathy Pokorney, Ignacio's curriculum and assessment director, said the increase in graduation rate shows efforts the school has made over several years are starting to pay off.

The district has worked to bolster both its advance-placement offerings and its career technical education offerings to meet needs of diverse students - from those looking at college to those looking to enter the trades.

"We want to be mindful of the things that are important to our kids and what their post-secondary options are going to be," she said.

The school has partnered with San Juan College in Farmington to offer in-state tuition on classes that provide college credit. It also partners with Western Colorado University.

Pokorney said another partnership is with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's Education Department, with a focus on improving attendance.

The district is also working to improve students' performance on the ACT, SAT and PSAT tests, and it uses students' results as an assessment on the effectiveness of the school's curriculum.

"We look at kids individually and try to provide whatever each one needs," Pokorney said. "Are some years better than others? Yes. Are some kids more academically focused? Yes. Is there always room for improvement? Yes. But we've come a long way in the past couple years, and it's starting to show and that's exciting."

Bayfield High School

Bayfield School Superintendent Kevin Aten said the school is helped by using NWEA, an educational nonprofit that offers assessment tools for schools. NWEA's MAP tests are given from the third through eighth grades.

The assessments, given three times a year, provide the district with an accurate measure of each student's proficiency in subjects and a measure of their rates of growth. Data from the tests can be used to craft academic plans suited to individual students.

The district also provides interventions for students who are struggling and sets aside personnel and time to work with struggling students.

"Interventions provide great benefits," Aten said.

Bayfield still needs to work on strengthening the performance of minority students, Aten said. It has received an American Indian Measurable Success Initiative grant to offer after-school tutoring to Native Americans, with sessions crafted for each student's needs. The district also tries to run a special bus for the program if students need transportation.

The school also works with Pueblo Community College Southwest to provide concurrent college classes, and the school is working with PCC Southwest to create a site on campus similar to the setup recently opened at Durango High School.

"Some kids need a different scene," he said. "It will provide a college environment. They want to graduate, but they don't want to deal with the high school scene."

The small size of the Bayfield district is also a benefit. "We have about 100 kids in each grade," Aten said. "It's hard to have kids fall through the cracks at that size."

parmijo@ durangoherald.com

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