High school grad rates show only slight gains

Diamond Syaz takes a selfie before commencement.
Diamond Syas takes a selfie with two fellow graduates before heading to commencement outside John F. Kennedy High School in Bloomington on June 2, 2016.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Minnesota's four-year high school graduation rate barely moved last year to land at 82.7 percent, according to data out today from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The 2017 statewide high school graduation rate is .2 percentage points higher than the 2016 rate. "I am so proud of the work our teachers, administrators and communities have done to increase the number of Minnesota students graduating," state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement.

Graduation rates improved for almost all racial groups of students, with black students seeing a very slight decrease. However, large gaps remain between students of color and their white peers. While 88 percent of white students received a diploma in four years, just 65 percent of black students and 51 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native students did.

The modest improvement again falls short of gains needed to meet state goals.

Education officials are aiming for a four-year graduation rate of 90 percent by the year 2020, with individual groups including students of color, low-income students and those with disabilities all above 85 percent. The goal is outlined in Minnesota's federally-required school accountability plan.

Still, education officials celebrated the long-term progress of students of color in a news release. In 2012, white students graduated at a rate 26.5 percentage points higher than their peers of color. 2017 data show the gap has shrunk to 18.7 percentage points.

2017 graduation rates are only slightly better
2017 graduation rates show only slight improvements over the previous year, while huge gaps in graduation rates remain between white and non-white students.
William Lager | MPR News Graphic

"While our graduation rates have continued to climb and gaps are narrowing, we have too many students who are not receiving a diploma. We have so much more work to do," Cassellius said in the news release.

Minnesota's 2017 graduation rates were calculated using a slightly different methodology than in years past. MPR News is comparing 2017 data to re-calculated rates that state education officials released back to 2012. The methodology change stems from a 2015 update in federal education law. Among the differences is an increase in the number of student racial groups tracked in the data.

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