How does Denver's high school graduation rate stack up compared to other cities'?

Denver Public Schools' high school graduation rate is rising -- but so far, it's only risen to a mediocre 52.7 percent. That was the news yesterday from Superintendent Tom Boasberg, who announced the numbers at a press conference at North High School. North, on the other hand, saw its graduation rate jump an impressive 12.1 percent this year, from 142 graduates in 2008 to 189 in 2009.

Still, DPS school board members expressed concern about the low overall graduation rate at last night's board meeting. The district did not meet its goal this year of increasing the rate by 5 percent; it climbed only 3.2 percent in 2009.

Those numbers may seem discouraging -- but Denver isn't alone.

According to a 2009 report by America's Promise Alliance, a child advocacy group once headed by Colin Powell, Denver ranks in the middle of America's fifty biggest cities in terms of graduation rates.

The report used data from the 2004-05 school year. It lists Denver's graduation rate at 58.6 percent, which is higher than it is now. At that rate, Denver ranked 19th out of the fifty cities, directly behind Austin and in front of Boston.

But even at the current rate of 52.7 percent, Denver would likely rank somewhere near the middle, according to the report. In 2004-05, Houston, which had a graduation rate of 52.9 percent, ranked 27th on the list. The city with the lowest graduation rate was Indianapolis, which graduated just 30.5 percent of its students in 2004-05.

So is this good news or bad news for Denver? Our somewhere in between?

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar