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Minnesota's high school graduation rate rises, disparities shrink

But there are still significant gaps.

A record 83.2 percent of Minnesota high school seniors graduated in 2018, the highest graduation rate on record and the fifth consecutive year that figure has risen.

The Minnesota Department of Education revealed the latest statistics Tuesday, noting that percentage represents 55,869 students getting their high school diploma.

Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker called graduating a "critical step" for each student's future success.

The increase was felt across the board.

The department says graduation rates went up among all racial/ethnic student groups, as well as English learners, students receiving special education services, and students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals.

The release focuses on progress over the past five years, noting from 2014-18, the graduation rate for students of color and American Indian students went up 4.9 percent. That was enough to reduce the gap between white and non-white students by about 15 percent, the department says.

In terms of raw numbers, that means 977 more American Indian students and students of color got a high school diploma in 2018 than 2014.

But there's still a pretty significant gap, as the chart above shows, particularly with barely half of the state's American Indian students graduating.

In addition, research published last year found Minnesota was in the bottom half of the country when it came to overall graduation rates, and pointed out it is one of five states where the graduation gap between black and white students is more than 20 percent. Minnesota was also highlighted for having some of the lowest graduation rates among non-white students.

“I am proud that the graduation gap is closing, but I am not satisfied,” Ricker said in the release, which notes eliminating these disparities is one of Minnesota's "highest educational priorities."

The state's goal is to have 90 percent of all students graduating by 2020, and to have all student groups' graduation rates above 85 percent.

The Huffington Post explains graduation rates are closely linked with unemployment levels, and those who fail to graduate are more greatly affected when the wider economy struggles. Minnesota has a significant income gap, particularly between white and black residents, with the median income for white people in the state standing at $57,404 in 2015, while for black people it's at $35,695, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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The overall graduation rate in Minnesota was 82.2 percent in 2016, the highest ever recorded in the state.