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MN graduation rate hits record high, achievement gaps easing

Nearly 56,000 seniors grabbed their diplomas last year, meaning 83.2 percent of the overall class is moving on to college, vocation school or a career.
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ROSEVILLE, Minn. — State education officials say Minnesota graduated more high school seniors in 2018 with the highest overall graduation rate in history. 

Nearly 56,000 seniors grabbed their diplomas last year, meaning 83.2 percent of the overall class is moving on to college, vocation school or a career.

“Graduating high school is a critical step on every student’s path to find their own success,” said Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “In Minnesota, we do not give up on our students. Behind every single data point in this year’s historic graduation rate, I not only see the unique stories of individual students, but also the hard work that educators, administrators, coaches and families put into supporting the needs of our students so they could reach this important milestone.”

The numbers are also improving for Minnesota's students of color. Data from the State Department of Education shows graduation rates increased statewide for all racial/ethnic student groups this year, as well as for English learners, students receiving special education services, and students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals. 

Over the past five years, African American students—who increased 7.2 percentage points—saw the largest increase. Here are some other findings from the data.

  • American Indian/Alaska Native students increased by 2.8 percentage points.
  • Asian students increased by 4.2 percentage points.
  • Hispanic students increased by 3.6 percentage points.
  • Students identifying as two or more races increased by 3 percentage points.
  • Students receiving special education services increased by 4 percentage points.
  • English learners increased by 2.5 percentage points.
  • Students eligible for free or reduced-price meals increased by 3.5 percentage points.

Department statistics since 2014 indicate an almost 15 percent reduction in the graduation gap between white and nonwhite students. Measuring that percentage in actual number of students, 977 more children of color and American Indian students, including 515 more black students, graduated with the Class of 2018 than if graduation rates had stayed at 2014 levels.

“I am proud that the graduation gap is closing, but I am not satisfied,” said Commissioner Ricker. “As we move forward, I am eager to partner with communities across our state to better support all of our students.”

Education Minnesota, the state union for teachers and support professionals, echoes the assertion that improvement is being made but the work of erasing the achievement gap is not done, especially when it comes to students of color or those who live in poverty. 

“The data also show we cannot be content with the status quo,” insists Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “It’s past time for the state to increase its investment in the supports students need to succeed. Years of chronic underfunding have, without question, contributed to the gaps we still see in the data on graduation rates. Minnesota needs to fully fund its schools.”

To find out how your school or district stacks up, check out the Minnesota Report Card.

For complete data and to compare rates from across the state, log on to the Minnesota Department of Education website.