The Minnesota Department of Education says the state's four-year graduation rate took a big jump last year.
The graduation rate for all Minnesota students in 2013 was 79.5 percent, up nearly two percentage points over the year before, according to data released by the department on Wednesday.
That included big increases for Minnesota's students of color, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. The African-American rate was up nearly 6 percent, while graduation rates for limited English students rose 7 percent, she said, adding, 'no one group of students scoring below 3 percent gain last year."
She credited the increase on efforts to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color.
But one testing director says some of the improvement can be credited to last year's repeal of the GRAD exams, a series of math, reading and writing tests students had to pass to get their diplomas.
"As long as they had finished all of their credits and done well on the standards, if their one thing was they hadn't quite passed the reading test, they could still move on," said Dave Heistad the director of evaluation and testing in the Bloomington district and former testing director for Minneapolis schools.
State officials also say more work must still be done to improve the graduation rates of students of color. Only 56 percent of the state's black students, and less than half of the state's Native American students, now graduate in four years.