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Denver Chicano Drop Out Rate Rises

Highest in four years

GM News

After three years of decline, the dropout rate for Denver Public Schools went up last year.

And the dropout rate for Hispanic students, who make up half the district's 67,000 students, jumped to its highest point in four years, according to figures released Wednesday.

In high schools and middle schools, 7.4 percent of all students who started in the fall quit by the spring. That's up from 6.2 percent in 1998, or 2,310 students -- 411 more than last year.

The rate was worse for high schools where nearly all dropouts come from -- 10.6 percent, two points higher than last year.

One in 10 Hispanic students quit overall, a 1.8 percent jump; and 14.2 percent in high school, a 3.1 point increase.

District officials blamed most of the increase, ironically, on programs designed to keep kids in school. A new night school was added and all the district's 10 high schools added courses to prepare for the test to get a GED.

That meant almost 300 high risk students who previously dropped out or were ready to, remained in school until last year. By keeping marginal students, the chances for more dropouts increased, said Dave Lowry, chief planner for DPS.

The rates at three high schools -- Manual, 7.9 percent; Montbello, 7.1 percent; and West, 7.4 percent -- increased by 2.7, 2.8 and 3 percentage points, respectively. Those schools also posted the highest increases in Hispanic dropouts, from 2.1 to 3.6 percentages points.

North, which is predominantly Hispanic, was a bright spot. It's rate dropped from 6.8 to 5.9 percent; the Hispanic rate dropped from 7.5 to 6.1 percent.

Superintendent Chip Zullinger said he wants schools to feel the consequence businesses or private schools do when they lose customers -- less money.

"We need to create an environment in which our schools are in the financial reality of what happens when kids don't go there anymore," he said.