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Utah high school graduation rate climbs to 88.2%

Salem Hills, Spanish Fork, Bountiful, Farmington among top rates

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Principal Brian McGill elbow-bumps twin sisters Isabel and Abigail Hales during drive-through graduation ceremony at Alta High School in Sandy on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For eight years running, the rate of Utah students graduating from public and charter high schools has risen, according to new data released from the Utah State Board of Education.

Last spring, 43,389 students graduated from Utah’s public schools, which represents 88.2% who entered as freshmen four years earlier — up 0.8% from 2019.

Graduation rates rose in seven of nine student demographic groups, although there was a “worrisome 6.4% decline” among graduation rates of students who identify as American Indian, according to a press release. There was also a 1.7% decline among students who identify as Asian.

Meanwhile, graduation rates of students who identify as African American or Black increased by 4.4%, and students who are economically disadvantaged saw a 1.1% increase.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson said Utah students “showed remarkable resiliency by overcoming the obstacles that the pandemic put in their path last spring to complete their education on time.”

Last spring, Utah schools shuttered to in-person learning and all students had to shift to online learning, which presented an additional layer of complication for students attempting to complete their high school graduation requirements.

“While graduation ceremonies looked different last spring, efforts to support students to demonstrate readiness to graduate through remote learning paid off. We commend students, parents, educators and all those involved in the ecosystem of education in helping our students have choices for their future through taking this first step of high school graduation,” Dickson said in a statement.

The Caucasian student group had the highest graduation rate for 2020 with 90.7% meeting graduation requirements. The African American and Black student group had the largest gain in graduation rate from 2019 to 2020 by going from 74.8% of students graduating to 79.2%.

Once again, female students in Utah had a higher graduation rate in 2020 than their male counterparts at 90.6% compared to 85.9%, although both groups’ graduation rates slightly improved over the previous year.

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Kelsey Gardner waves to teachers and staff during a drive-thru graduation ceremony at Alta High School in Sandy on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The state’s dropout rate for the 2020 cohort was 10%, down 0.6% from the dropout rate from the previous year. Caucasian students had the lowest dropout rate at 7.7%. The Asian student group increased its dropout rate from 2019 but it still outperformed the overall state rate. The American Indian student group had the highest dropout rate for 2020 at 23.8%, which is an increase of more than 5 percentage points from 2019. 

A majority of public high schools — both charter and district schools — had graduation rates of at least 90%. Schools with the lowest rates were primarily online schools students enroll in for credit recovery or district alternative high schools.

Salem Hills High School had a 98.4% graduation rate with Spanish Fork High School close behind at 97.9% while Bountiful High was at 97.8% and Farmington High at 97.6%.

Among the state’s larger school districts, Cache School District had the highest average graduation rate at 95%, followed by Davis at 94.2% and Alpine, Park City and Washington, all at 93%.

A number of public charter schools had graduation rates in the high 90s as well, such as Success Academy; Itineris Early College High School; Utah County Academy of Science; Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science; Freedom Preparatory Academy; and Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy among several others.

In Salt Lake County, Canyons District had the highest average graduation rate at 90.4%, followed by Jordan at 90.2%; Salt Lake City School District at 80%; Murray at 79.6%; and Granite at 76.1%, all slightly up from the previous year.

Here’s a complete list of schools and graduation rates.