Mortarboards fly May 28 in the Moffat County High School gymnasium at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony. In recent years, the number of students who haven’t made it to graduation has improved, a trend school officials are hoping to see continue.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Mortarboards fly May 28 in the Moffat County High School gymnasium at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony. In recent years, the number of students who haven’t made it to graduation has improved, a trend school officials are hoping to see continue.

Student campaign credited for helping lower MCHS dropout rate


In May, 135 Moffat County High School students donned cap and gown and graduated. That number could have been higher, but four students dropped out.

MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said it’s a tragedy when any student drops out of high school. However, when considering numbers, statistics and trends, four dropouts is an improvement over previous years.

“We’ve reduced the dropout rate from year to year, for sure,” Schnellinger said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Schnellinger was speaking of dropout numbers and graduation rates for the past five years.

The year before, 2009-10, there were seven dropouts. There were 14 in 2008-09.

Those numbers are complicated by being part of larger classes. Still, Schnellinger said this year’s lower number is worth noting.

“It appears to me … in just the raw numbers, we have fewer dropouts, and I hope it continues in that trend,” he said.

Numbers for this year’s senior class also include:

• Two students who transferred out of the district.

• One student who earned a GED in lieu of graduation.

• Three homeschooled students.

• Five students who did not complete school, but will return.

• Two transitional students (special needs) that will need additional years to graduate.

As far as assigning a percentage to this year’s graduation rate, Schnellinger said it’s not yet available.

“The state determines that,” he said of graduation rates. “I’m really reluctant to put my pencil and paper to it because there are lots of considerations that go into the formula.

“I would say definitely in August we would get those numbers.”

Graduation rates for previous years, starting with 2009-10, are 83.8 percent, 81.1 percent, 84.6 percent and 86.4 percent.

Schnellinger said despite the lower number of dropouts, this year’s graduation rate might be lower than previous years due to smaller enrollment.

“I will caution the public and the readers that our low (student body numbers) pull our percentages rapidly,” he said. “So, if we have two kids that drop out in a school year, it will pull our percentages way off.”

In the meantime, Schnellinger gives the MCHS Student Council credit for helping lower the number of dropouts.

In September 2010, the council rolled out an initiative called “Every Student Will Graduate.”

Throughout the school year, the phrase was repeated over the school’s PA system during morning announcements, and administrators included the phrase as part of their greeting when answering phones.

The slogan was also printed on a banner that was hung at MCHS.

“I think it certainly had an effect on the staff and how we think about things,” Schnellinger said of the initiative. “It was a very challenging goal that was set forth by our own students. It’s one of those things that we need to hit year in and year out. ‘This is the way we think about things. This is the way we see things here in Moffat County, that all students will graduate.’”

Student council president Becca Pugh said she thinks the initiative is responsible for lowering the dropout numbers.

“I do,” she said. “It’s all about positive attitudes. I think ‘everyone will graduate’ was a positive message. I think it had a huge impact.”

Next year, the program will grow in scope, she said. The student council will organize a group of volunteer student tutors who will assist other students who are struggling academically.

Schnellinger said the goal of eliminating dropouts is achievable.

“We’re a small county,” he said. “We know each other. This is possible.”

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onewhocares 5 years, 10 months ago

Obviously the fewer students that drop out the better, but I think you are mistaking the more important issue, which is setting higher academic standards at all the moffat county schools making the kids more competitive state wide, so fewer will drop out of college later. The lower drop out rate looks good for the the district, but where are numbers showing the kids that go to college, and drop out because they are unprepared. I have talked to one too many teens where this has occurred, and I don't think it's fair to any of the students to make them think they are really smart & doing well, only to find out later, that in other schools, they are really at a B or C level. It might fulfill the ego of the Administrators, but it is definitely not for the good of the students. I say expect more from the kids, encourage more and don't enable poor students to better the district report card.


wellwell 5 years, 10 months ago


This was an article about the student lead interest lowering the dropout point, in fact everyone graduates. This student lead program should be praised as a very good forward movement. The students themselves took responsibility for their own lifes. We are so quick to find a negative when the appreciation should be to those learning, making their own goal setting.

I'm sure that the administration and/or teachers did not roll back scoring to allow students to graduate due to the student lead goal. The state lead goals are the ones that the Admin. and teachers are pressed to meet and this article speaks to their appreciation of the student lead program to have everyone graduate.

Now the part where I agree with you. The students do need to be challenged, taught and expected to meet a higher level. The term rural is oft used as an excuse, an ethnic state of being behind, a giggle attached. I have heard this phrase from all levels of economic status, education levels,and yes, teachers; "People just don't understand this is Craig,rural Northwest Colorado!" There it is: The Excuse, The Ethnic Status of being Rural, and the giggle/laugh/ grin follows to make fun, allowing that all is OK.

Does anyone else want to fill the Board of Education spots? Pick up applications to petiton 50 people in your district to sign for you as a candidate. These will be available at the School Administration Building on Yampa Ave. in the beginning of August and will need to be turned in by the end of August.

Let's be active citizens and work for solutions instead of complaining. See you at the school board meetings onewhocares and anyone else up to my challange.


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