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State posts highest graduation rate in a decade

Graduation rates are the highest that they have been in the last decade, according to Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) commissioner Brenda Cassellius, Office of Higher Education (OHE) commissioner Larry Pogemiller and Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) commissioner Katie Clark Sieben.

More than 79.5 percent of Minnesota high school seniors graduated in 2013, up from 77.6 percent in 2012. This increase is twice the yearly increase seen over the past three years, showing acceleration in progress for Minnesota seniors.

“These increases are the result of targeted investments by Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature, as well as greater accountability for schools through our waiver, and the incredible work being done each and every day by Minnesota’s educators,” Cassellius said.

Across the board, all student groups showed gains, with some of the largest increases being made by black students, up 6 percent over last year, and students learning English, whose rate increased by 7.5 percent over 2012. In fact, no single group of students made less than a 3 percentage point gain.

Additionally, the data show reduction in gaps between white students and students of color. The gap for both black and Hispanic students closed by 8 percent since 2010, while Asian students closed the gap by 5 percent and American Indian students saw a 2 percent gap closure.

“Minnesota has one of the most highly educated workforces in the country,” said Clark Sieben. “Increasing graduation rates among Minnesotans of all backgrounds is essential for the future growth of our businesses and economy and will allow us to remain competitive in a global economy.”

The state has developed several initiatives with increased focus on graduation:

• The Minnesota Early Indicator and Response System is a tool for districts to identify and support students in grades six and nine who are at increased risk of not completing high school in four years.

• The Regional Centers of Excellence provide a statewide system of support to help school leaders create and implement plans to narrow achievement gaps, increase graduation rates and improve student outcomes to ensure all students are ready for a career or college.

• Minnesota’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law has allowed for the graduation rates of students of color, students in special education, students living in poverty and English language learners to be an integral part of the accountability system, which also provides recognition and support to schools.

• Minnesota is a participant in Grad Nation, a collaborative effort to increase the overall four-year graduation rate in Minnesota to 90 percent by 2020. A key effort is to highlight positive and alternative solutions to out-of-school suspensions, which contribute to students disengaging from school.