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Minnesota is steadily closing gaps in graduation rates, report shows

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Nearly 82 percent of all Minnesota seniors graduated high school on time in 2015 – up .7 percentage points from last year, according to a report released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Education.

There is still a gap between white and minority students, but it is steadily closing with Hispanic and black students making the biggest gains, according to the report.

Here's a breakdown of the graduation rates:

  • Black students: 62 percent – up 15.6 percent from 2010.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander students: 82.7 percent – up 12.7 percent from 2010.
  • Hispanic students: 65.6 percent – up 17.8 percent from 2010.
  • American Indian students: 51.9 percent – up 7.7 percent from 2010.
  • White students: 86.9 percent.

“Every percentage point, every increase, whether it’s one decimal point or double digits, represents another student who is graduating high school prepared for their next step in life,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in the release.

Of the three largest school districts in the metro, Minneapolis and Anoka-Hennepin saw improvements, while St. Paul's graduation rate remained flat, Star Tribune reports. Bloomington saw the biggest drop, from 87 percent in 2014 to 77 percent in 2015.

"I congratulate Minnesota students, teachers, and parents for this continued improvement. We should be encouraged by this progress, but we must continue our work to ensure all our students get quality educations and the support they need to graduate, and succeed in life," Gov. Mark Dayton said in an email statement.

Minnesota historically has some of the nation's widest gaps between white and nonwhite students, which has state leaders particularly focused in recent years on the graduation rates for students of color.

The report refers to a variety of programs and strategies focused on improving graduation rates including:

  •  Minnesota Early Indicator and Response System (MEIRS) – a tool that targets students in grades six and nine for intervention who are at increased risk of not completing high school in four years.
  • GradMinnesota – a statewide campaign aimed at reaching a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
  • Including new expectations in the state’s Multiple Measurement Ratings system.
  • Offering strategic support to Title I high schools with the lowest graduation rates and students with behavioral problems.

How does Minnesota compare?

Compared to the rest of the United States, Minnesota's graduation rate has ranked pretty average in the past.

The most recent national graduation rate available is 82 percent for 2014, when Minnesota's rate was at 81.2 percent.

According to National Public Radio, Minnesota's graduation rate ranked 30th in the U.S. in 2013. And like 21 other states, it steadily increased by 3 percent between 2011 and 2013. Two years later, Minnesota's has increased almost another 2 percent.

However, graduation rates aren't always as accurate as they appear, the news station says, which identified three ways states and districts try to improve their graduation rates. Read more here.

U.S. World & News Report says the country is still on track to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

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