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Minnesota has some of the lowest graduation rates for minority students nationwide

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There's some good news coming out of the nation's schools this week.

Students are graduating high school at a higher rate than ever before, according to new statistics from the Department of Education, and the achievement gap between minority students and their white peers is narrowing.

Nationwide, the graduation rate was 82.3 percent in 2014, and the graduation rates for minority students have also improved, data show. Those improvements are present in Minnesota as well, but the state still falls behind others when it comes to graduating minority students on time, MPR News points out.

“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.

He added: “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student – no matter their zip code – for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”

Minnesota's overall graduation rate is just below the national average, sitting at 81.2 percent, and the state also has the worst graduation rate for Hispanic students in the nation, with 63 percent finishing high school on time in 2014.

The state also ranks near the bottom for graduation rates of other minority students when compared to other states (see the table here) and the average nationally.

Here's a look at Minnesota's graduation rates compared to the national average:

  • American Indian/Alaska native: 50.6 percent graduation rate; 69.6 percent nationally.
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders: 81.7 percent; 89 percent nationally.
  • Hispanic: 63.2 percent; 76.3 percent nationally.
  • Black: 60.4 percent; 72.5 percent nationally.
  • White: 86.3 percent; 87.2 percent nationally.
  • Economically disadvantaged: 65.9 percent; 74.6 percent nationally.
  • Limited English proficiency: 63.7 percent; 62.6 percent nationally.
  • Students with disabilities: 58.4 percent; 63.1 percent nationally.

This has Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota's education commissioner, saying the state needs to catch up to the rest of the nation. She told MPR News the achievement gap must be addressed so "every single child has what they need to get an excellent education and graduate on time."

The Department of Education released this data days after President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law (the replacement to the No Child Left Behind Act). With this new law, graduation rates are a mandatory part of state accountability formulas, NPR reports.

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