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Report: Minnesota No. 31 on graduation rate ranking

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State officials have recently touted an improving graduation rate in Minnesota, but a new national report says Minnesota's 78 percent overall graduation rate leaves it in the bottom half among states.

Minnesota ranked No. 31 among states, according to the study based on Education Department statistics from 2012.

The report is being presented Monday at the Building a GradNation Summit in Washington, D.C. It was compiled by several groups: the Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Minnesota ranked behind No. 28 West Virginia, No. 29 Wyoming and No. 30 California in overall graduation rate.

Minnesota's neighbors were among the states with the top graduation rates:

1. Iowa: 89 percent
2. Nebraska: 88 percent
3. Wisconsin: 88 percent
4. Vermont: 88 percent
5. Texas: 88 percent
6. North Dakota: 87 percent

Minnesota education officials in February trumpeted good news: The state's graduation rate is the highest it has been in a decade. They cited more recent data than the report released Monday – in 2013, about 79 percent of all students graduated, up from 72 percent in 2003.

The new report notes that the national graduation rate for 2012 was 80 percent, the first time in U.S. history it has been that high – a "momentous threshold," study authors note.

But they note there's plenty of room for improvement – 1 in 5 U.S. students are not graduating. The study's researchers remain optimistic and predict a 90 percent national graduation rate by 2020. The report notes that students of color have led the way in increasing graduation rates.

The report says that the rising U.S. rate can be attributed in part to increased national awareness of low high school graduation rates, new programs of accountability for schools, as well as higher expectations, and better data to track problems.

The study reports that an opportunity gap persists – a link between low income and low academic performance remains strong. But research indicates the problem it is "solvable," the study says.

Some states have more than half of all students counted as low income but they still have graduation rates above the national average, including Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas.

By contrast, Minnesota, Wyoming and Alaska have a lower percentage of low-income students but still have a lower-than-average overall graduation rate, the report indicates.

Minnesota had a lower rate than its neighbors when it comes to low-income student graduation rates:

Minnesota: 59 percent
North Dakota: 74 percent
South Dakota: 67 percent
Iowa: 80 percent
Wisconsin: 75 percent

From the report, Minnesota graduation rates (2012):

Overall: 78 percent
American Indian/Alaska native/Native American: 45 percent
Asian/Pacific Islander: 74 percent
Black (not Hispanic)/African American: 51 percent
Hispanic: 53 percent
White (not Hispanic)/Caucasian: 84 percent
Children with disabilities (IDEA): 56 percent
Limited English proficient: 51 percent
Economically disadvantaged: 59 percent

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