Graduation gap is closing in MN, just like everywhere else

Minnesota is closing the high school graduation rate gap between white students and students of color — but so is the rest of the nation.

Despite positive gains in the state, the nationwide improvements shown in federal education figures released Tuesday are making it tough to dislodge Minnesota's unwanted distinction of lagging the rest of the country when it comes to graduating students of color.

State education commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Minnesota needs to cover ground more quickly if it wants to catch up.

"We have some of the lowest graduation rates for students of color," she said. "But this should not be a surprise to anybody — because we report out that we have the largest achievement gaps — and we need to absolutely address these achievement gaps and ensure that every single child has what they need to get an excellent education and graduate on time."

The new federal figures show Minnesota still has the nation's worst graduation rate for Latino students. Just 63 percent complete high school within four years.

However, Cassellius said it's worth noting that a higher proportion of Latino students in Minnesota are graduating on time than were just a few years ago. From 2011 to 2014, the graduation rate for Latino students climbed by 12 percentage points.

"We know what we're doing is working," she said. "We anticipate to see this kind of growth with our Hispanic population moving forward. We're headed in the right direction."

And while the latest federal graduation figures show black, Asian and American Indian students in Minnesota also near the bottom of the country, each group has made gains in recent years.

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