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Minnesota's high school graduation rates do not make for pleasant reading

We rank 35th in the country.

For a state that often features high up on the list for quality of life and economic standards, Minnesota is not faring as well when it comes to education.

The state ranks 35th in the U.S. for four-year high school graduation rates, according to Department of Education figures featured in this report by the Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University.

The figures relate to the Class of 2016, when Minnesota had an overall graduation rate of 82.2 percent, while ranks in the bottom half nationally despite a 5.3 percent rise compared to 2011.

Our neighbor to the south, Iowa, had the highest graduation rate in the nation at 91.3 percent.

But arguably of even greater concern for Minnesota education officials and lawmakers is the racial disparities when it comes to graduation.

Minnesota is just one of five states – the others being Wisconsin, NEvada, New York and Ohio – where the graduation gap between black and white students is more than 20 percent.

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And Minnesota is one of just two states where there's a 20+ percentage point gap in graduation rates for Hispanic students compared to white students – the other being New York.

Around 65 percent of black and Hispanic students graduated in 2016, compared to around 87 percent of white students.

Minnesota also has the second highest gap in the country between low income and non-low income students.

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Everyone Graduates Center notes that states making the greatest improvements in graduation rates target the reasons for students dropping out of school.

It recommends punitive, reactive discipline such as out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and referral to the police, to be replaced with "proactive" practices that keep students in schools to work on the underlying cause of their misbehavior.

It also recommends stronger career pathways for teens and early warning systems to identify struggling and disengaging students.

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