In a year in which the state's four-year graduation rate climbed a half of a percentage point, the rates for the Alexandria and Brandon-Evansville school districts also rose.

At Alexandria Area High School, 261 students graduated in 2019, representing 91.3% of the senior class. That is an increase from 88.0% the previous year.

The number of seniors who dropped out declined slightly, from 5.5% to 4.9%. Another 2.1% of seniors are listed as continuing their education.

The percentage of females who graduated at AAHS, 94.9%, topped those of males, 87.8%. The rate for special education students was 69.2%, which is nearly 6% higher than in 2018.

"Historically we are trending upwards for student groups and that reflects that our staff are working effectively to support kids," said Rick Sansted, the district's assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. "Our initiatives with content literacy, along with multi-tiered systems of support at all of our schools, are helping to ensure the success of each child."

Brandon-Evansville's graduation rate rose from 90.0% to 100.% in 2019 for its 26 grads. Osakis High School had 56 students graduate in '19, which equated to 96.6%. In 2018, its graduation rate was 98.2%.

The results released by the state Department of Education did not list any special education seniors at Brandon-Evansville, while Osakis had a 92.3% graduation rate in that category.

The rates for other area schools: Minnewaska had 59 graduates, and its rate of 95.2% is an increase over 93.9% last year; Parkers Prairie's 32 graduates amounted to a 88.9% rate, a decrease from 97.5% in '18; and West Central Area's graduation rate fell from 97.9% to 90.7, with 49 graduates.

All six area schools posted graduation rates well above the average of all Minnesota schools, which was 83.7% in 2019. That was a record according to the Minnesota Department of Education. The state dropout rate also fell from 4.6% to 4.4%, and dropped for every student group.

State figures

In all, 57,171 seniors graduated on time last year, and an additional 3,806 students from earlier classes graduated in 2019 as well, having started high school five, six or seven years earlier.

In what education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker called a heartening sign, the state dropout rates also declined slightly in 2019 to 4.6%. Approximately 4.4% of high school students dropped out the year before.

"That suggests that students are hearing the message that the adults in their lives are here to support them, and if they choose to persist in their education that we will persist right alongside them," Ricker said.

Black and Hispanic students graduation rates both rose last year to 69.9%, up from 2018 rates of 67.4% and 66.8%, respectively. Since 2017, graduation rates for those groups have increased by 5.2 and 3.5 percentage points, respectively.

Native American student graduation rates, meanwhile, fell slightly to 50.8% in 2019. The four-year rate for Native American students, however, has hovered between 50% and 51%.

Education Minnesota, the union representing teachers and other school faculty in Minnesota, commended last year's graduates in a statement to the press and called for increased education spending to address the racial disparities in graduation rates. Public education spending is currently projected to account for $20 billion-worth of Gov. Tim Walz's proposed budget for the 2020-2021 biennium.

"Small improvements in the graduation rate are welcome, but educators believe our schools could do even better for students of color with the additional resources we need to give every student the support they need to thrive," a statement from union president Denise Specht reads. "It’s time to fully fund public education in this state."

Matthew Guerry of Forum News Service contributed to this story.