Minnesota high school grad rate ranks 35th in U.S.

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Students head to class on the first day of school.
Students head to class at Richfield High School on Sept. 2, 2015.
Caroline Yang for MPR News 2015

Minnesota ranks 35th in the nation for four-year high school graduation rates, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Department of Education.

A new report by the research and policy group Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University breaks down 2016 state-by-state graduation rate figures.

In 2016 Minnesota had an overall graduation rate of 82 percent. Minnesota's rate inched up less than a percentage point in 2017, according to state data. From 2011 to 2016, Minnesota saw a 5.3 percentage point increase in its four-year rate.

States making the biggest gains in graduation rates addressed the range of reasons students drop out of school, said Everyone Graduates Center director Bob Balfanz. He said states used methods like stronger career and technical education pathways, early warning systems and disciplinary policies that push fewer students out of school.

"The final piece is they stayed with it over time ... it wasn't like this great success, there was lots of fits and starts," Balfanz said.

Minnesota's overall graduation rate masks significant disparities among groups of students. While 87 percent of white students graduated in four years, rates for students of color were lower.

The report found Minnesota is one of just five states where the graduation-rate gap between black and white students was more than 20 percentage points in 2016. Minnesota and New York were the only states where the gap between white and Hispanic students was also that large.

In 2016, about 65 percent of Minnesota's black and Hispanic students graduated in four years, according to the national data.

Minnesota also had one of the largest gaps in the nation between graduation rates for low-income and more affluent students. Sixty-eight percent of Minnesota low-income students graduated high school in four years.

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