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Minnesota's high school graduation rate edges up to 81 percent

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Minnesota's high school graduation rate climbed over 81 percent in 2014, the Department of Education says.

The new numbers released Tuesday show an improvement in 2013's rate of 79.8 percent. State officials also say the gap in graduation rates between students of color and their white peers shrank last year.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius notes the overall rate has climbed every year since 2011 as the state aims toward the 90 percent threshold by the end of the decade.

Cassellius tells WCCO earlier intervention with at-risk students is one reason graduation rates are climbing.

There's still plenty of room for improvement, though, particularly when it comes to rates for some racial minority groups. Robert Lilligren of the advocacy group Little Earth tells the station the 50 percent graduation rate for Native American students is unacceptable.

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Last week MPR News compared Minnesota's 2013 numbers with others around the country. They found that in all four non-white student groups, Minnesota ranked last or next-to-last in the on-time graduation rate.

As for the state's overall rate surpassing 81 percent, Jim Bartholomew of the Minnesota Business Partnership tells the Pioneer Press that should be taken with a grain of salt. He notes that the state got rid of reading and writing tests that had been graduation requirements. Now, Bartholomew tells the newspaper:

"Unfortunately, we're back to where we were 15 to 20 years ago, where if kids were able to put in the time and get through school they get a diploma, whether they were prepared or not."

Education Commissioner Cassellius, on the other hand, says the state's standards have become more rigorous and graduates are better prepared for college and careers.

The Associated Press reports Gov. Mark Dayton pointed to last year's state investments in all-day kindergarten and pre-K education in forecasting future gains in educational achievement.

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