Englewood Sees Huge Gains in Graduation Rate
Julie McMorris

The state of Colorado as a whole saw an increase in graduation rates from the class of 2019 to the class of 2020. Englewood Schools in particular saw a jump of over 11%. “This increase in graduation rate is a culmination of many long-term efforts,” said Diana Zakhem, Director of Secondary Supports for Englewood Schools.

Englewood’s graduation rate has been trending in the right direction for many years now, though, due to smaller class sizes the percentages can fluctuate from year to year. Zakhem points out that the district takes a holistic approach to supporting students for all four years of high school, and it was all of those strategies together that supported the class of 2020. The district’s strategies include:

  • Policy and practice changes to ensure no procedures were inadvertently making graduation more difficult for students.
  • Intentional focus on high engagement programs and intentionally creating learning environments to support these high-interest programs. Englewood offers a wide range of career and technical education programs, advanced placement and concurrent enrollment options to keep students interested and engaged in their courses.
  • Securing partnerships to focus on assisting students in their transition to ninth grade and setting them up for success for all four years of high school.
  • Using partnerships to support sophomores who were having attendance issues.
  • Reaching out to students who had dropped out and supporting them to reengage.
  • Offering a GED program so students had more than one way to complete high school.
  • Offering a credit recovery program to help students retrieve credit and maintain progress. 

Because it is a small district, the district’s combined average graduation rate does not tell the whole story. Made up of just two high schools: a traditional high school and an alternative high school, Englewood is seeing great success with both. The traditional high school, Englewood High School, for the first time saw a graduation rate above the state average. The alternative high school, Colorado’s Finest High School of Choice, has continued to see a decrease in dropout rates and an increase in graduation rates over the years. By nature, students choosing to go to CFHSC meet at-risk criteria, have not been successful in other high schools, and often arrive behind in credits and looking for another opportunity to cross the finish line and graduate. The CFHSC program is so successful that the four year graduation rate does not reflect that many students at CFHSC graduate early or in five, six or seven years -- demonstrating that the program ensures that many students stay enrolled and finish high school. CFHSC’s dropout rate is below the state average for other alternative schools.

“We are so proud of the work of our students, staff members and school leadership,” said Superintendent Wendy Rubin. “High school graduation is extremely important for an individual’s long-term success. In Englewood, we implement long-term, student-focused strategies to make high school graduation a reality for as many students as possible.”

The class of 2020 graduated under very unique circumstances. Like the majority of other school districts, Englewood Schools made sure students had opportunities to maintain the progress they had already achieved as they were facing virtual classes and a global pandemic, while still holding students accountable. However, the last two months of high school did not detract from the work that students had put in for the other four years of high school.

“The class of 2020 overcame great obstacles to reach their graduation day, but they ensured that the unprecedented challenges they faced at the end of their senior year did not detract from the four years of hard work they had already put in to achieve their goals,” said Zakhem.

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