Aspen High School’s class of 2021 reported high expectations and aspirations

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Aspen High School seniors, wearing their hats and gowns, take part in the annual graduation march on Friday, May 28, 2021 at the Aspen School District campus. The AHS graduation ceremony is scheduled for Saturday June 5 on the grass pitch. Photo by Austin Colbert / The Aspen Times.

According to a exit survey presented to the District Education Council at a regular meeting Tuesday.

The board tasked the district accountability committee with formulating the survey last year, according to committee co-chair Christa Geiszl. The survey was long – “clearly too long,” Geiszl said – but still garnered a strong response from 113 respondents among the 128 or so senior graduates who threw their hats off in 2021.

Most students answered most of the questions, although the survey did not collect 113 responses for every question on the list.



A question about GPA, for example, had 108 responses.

Almost half of those surveyed said they had a 4.0 GPA, earning all the “Aces” in their courses. Most of the rest (just north of 40% of respondents) were in the 3.0 GPA range. It’s “pretty incredible”, according to Geiszl. The remaining respondents (around 7% of those surveyed) fell into the 2.0 GPA category.



This group of highly-rated recent graduates also indicated that they have high aspirations for post-secondary education: 102 respondents indicated that they plan to attend a four-year college immediately after graduation. (Other post-graduate goals included two-year colleges and a vocational or tech school.)

For most of those surveyed, the COVID-19 pandemic has not had an impact on these post-secondary decisions. Almost 84% of the 112 respondents indicated that their plans were not affected by the pandemic; 8% said the pandemic had changed their plans to go straight to college, and 8% said it had “maybe” had an impact.

And many don’t plan to quit after four years of graduate school: Less than a quarter of all survey respondents said their ultimate education goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Almost 40% say they are aiming for a master’s degree and more than 10% are considering a doctorate; about a quarter of respondents were undecided and a marginal fraction planned to complete their university education with a high school diploma.

The survey also showed high participation in the International Baccalaureate courses for the class of 2021 – although this does not necessarily translate into the same high participation rates for the IB diploma program.

Almost half (49.1%) of the 112 respondents have taken at least five IB courses and 28.6% have taken three or four IB courses in high school; 16.1% have taken one or two IB courses and 7% have not taken any.

But less than a fifth of all investigators have actually completed the degree program, which also requires an extended essay and project of creativity, activity, service and comes with some timing restrictions; meeting program requirements can sometimes conflict with other activities, courses and commitments.

“Some of the most interesting parts of this came from some of our IB questions. … Since I’ve been part of this school district in terms of coming to DAC, we’ve definitely been pushing for IB for everyone, ”Geiszl said.

Respondents identified this surge in an open-ended section of the survey: While some students said they appreciated the wide variety of courses and the rigorous offerings the IB had in high school, others felt that the pressure to take these IB courses and expand the program has come at the cost of paying attention to other non-IB classes.

Overall, students said they felt their teachers had high expectations and asked students to do their best, according to 90% of 110 respondents.

Another question about the students’ overall experience with their teachers was “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Geiszl.

“Another thing that really stood out was how much they really love their teachers and how much we have good feedback from the teachers,” Geisl said. “I just think this is a testament to the fantastic teaching staff I have always heard about at Aspen High School. … I just felt like those numbers for high school graduates were off the charts.

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