(1) The general assembly hereby finds that:
(a) The state of Colorado has placed a high priority on reducing the number of student dropouts in Colorado, including establishing the goal of decreasing the high school dropout rate by half by the 2017-18 academic year;
(b) The Colorado department of education reports that the statewide graduation rate for Colorado high schools for the 2006-07 school year was seventy-five percent, an improvement of nine-tenths of a percentage point over the previous school year;
(c) Although the overall graduation rate may have improved, serious gaps continue to exist in the graduation rates among ethnic and economic groups and, overall, twenty-five percent of the high school students in Colorado are not graduating from high school within four years;
(d) Students with disabilities also continue to achieve a significantly lower graduation rate than other student groups. The graduation rate for Colorado students with disabilities is sixty-three and seven-tenths percent, compared with a statewide graduation rate of seventy-five percent.
(e) According to the 2007 Colorado youth risk behavior survey, approximately one out of ten students did not go to school one or more days in a thirty-day period because they felt unsafe at school or in traveling to or from school. This statistic indicates that, to improve student attendance and graduation rates, schools and school districts must address school safety issues as well as student learning and engagement issues.
(f) Studies clearly show that a student's level of education attainment will directly influence the student's level of achievement and success throughout the rest of his or her life;
(g) The national center for education statistics reports that, in comparing employment rates and levels of education attainment across the country, in 2005, the unemployment rate for persons who dropped out of high school was seven and six-tenths percent, compared to an overall average unemployment rate for all education levels of four percent; and
(h) Studies further show that students who drop out of school are more likely to be involved in crime or delinquency and to lose lifelong opportunities for personal achievement, resulting in economic and social costs to the state.
(2) The general assembly therefore concludes that:
(a) It is imperative that the department of education create an office of dropout prevention and student re-engagement to provide focus, coordination, research, and leadership to assist local education providers in implementing coordinated efforts to reduce the high school dropout rate and increase the high school graduation and completion rates and the levels of student engagement and re-engagement;
(b) To significantly reduce the statewide dropout rate and increase the rates of student engagement and re-engagement, the office of dropout prevention and student re-engagement must also provide leadership in creating and facilitating systemic approaches that involve intersystem collaboration between local education providers and the foster care and child welfare systems, the juvenile justice system, the division of youth services in the department of human services, institutions of higher education, career and technical education providers, adult basic education, general educational development certificate, and English-as-a-second-language programs, offices of workforce development, school-based student support personnel, expanded learning opportunity and family education programs, general educational development programs, and facility schools.
Source: L. 2009: Entire article added, (HB 09-1243), ch. 290, p. 1406, 1, effective May 21.