Wyoming saw a slight uptick in its high school graduation rate for 2021, marking the eighth consecutive year of graduation rate increases.
The state’s graduation rate increased to 82.4% in the 2020-2021 school year, a 0.1% increase over the prior school year, when it was 82.3%. The number reflects the fact that 5,913 students graduated high school during the year, while 1,261 students left school without graduating.
“I think we all know that the pandemic thrust some unique challenges on students in schools the last two years,” Kari Eakins, interim director for the Wyoming Department of Education, said during a news conference Wednesday. “This continued improvement shows just how highly we value education in this state. High school graduation is one of the most important achievements in a student’s life.”
Wyoming’s graduation rate remains below the national the national average of 86%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The national average number is for the 2018-2019 school year, as it takes longer for national data to be compiled, Eakins noted.
The lowest graduation rates in the state were found among homeless students at 61.3%, students learning the English language, 61.3%, and American Indian students, 52.9%.
Eakins blamed the pandemic for being at least partially responsible for Wyoming schools failing to address dropout rates among these groups.
“We know that a lot of students had homes that didn’t have solid broadband connections or the atmosphere that they needed to conduct their schoolwork in a good manner,” she said. “Obviously if you’re a homeless student, I would imagine that struggle is even greater. For English language learners and a lot of other students that needed special services, it was more difficult to deliver those during the pandemic.”
The graduation rates for homeless and Native American students actually dropped over the last year.
However, 17 Wyoming school districts posted graduation rates of 90% or above. Sheridan County School District No. 3 in Clearmont and Washakie County School District No. 2 in Ten Sleep both had 100% graduation rates last year.
Eakins pointed to Converse County School District 2 in Glenrock as a prime example of one district that has significantly increased its graduation rate in recent years. The district had a graduation rate of 94% for the most recent school year, an increase of 12% in just a few years.