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Staffer Myrna Zillalba, left, helps Dennys Quezada as he works on a laptop in a classroom in Newlon Elementary School in Denver on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado’s high school graduation rate fell for the first time in more than a decade in 2021, according to the Colorado Department of Education. 

A total of 81.7% of the class of 2021 graduated last spring, down from 81.9% of the class of 2020. 

The data shows wide graduation rate discrepancies between races and economic statuses. 

The decline came as the pandemic shuttered schools across the state and sent students home to learn, leading to widening gaps between students of color and their white peers.   

The graduation rate for white students climbed by 0.6 percentage points last year to 86.6%, while graduation rates for students of color fell by 1 percentage point to 76.1%.

American Indian students saw the sharpest decline, with a graduation rate of 64.5% in 2021, down from 66.7% in 2020. Black students saw their graduation rate fall by 0.6 percentage points to 76%, while Hispanic students fell by 1.2 percentage points to 74.2%. 

Graduation rates also fell for students with limited English proficiency, economic disadvantages, those experiencing homelessness and those from migrant families. The graduation rate for migrant students fell by 4.7 percentage points in 2021 to 67%. 

The graduation rate for students with disabilities climbed by 4.6 percentage points to 66.4%. 

The state’s completion rate, which measures how many students either graduate high school, obtain a certificate or GED also fell to 83.2% in 2021 from 83.4% the year before.

The state’s dropout rate remained at 1.8% in 2021, the same as the year before, and the lowest mark in a decade. About a quarter of districts reported their dropout rates were lower than in 2020. 

Many districts are utilizing the state’s new graduation guidelines, which take effect for the class of 2022, to provide students with “multiple pathways” toward degree completion, including work-based learning, apprenticeships and concurrent enrollment, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Education.

“We know how tough it was for everyone last school year due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic with schools going to remote learning and others offering hybrid models,” said Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner in a statement. “It is a relief that the graduation rate is nearly the same as it was the previous year. With the state’s dropout rate also nearly unchanged, it is a concrete display of the dedication and determination of Colorado’s students, parents and teachers, especially during these tough times.” 

David is a former Colorado Sun staff writer.