ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - The overall high school graduation rate in Minnesota has reached a new high of 82.7 percent, and state education officials say the numbers are showing improvement in closing the gap between white and minority students.
The 82.7 percent graduation rate in 2017 is a 4.3 percent increase over 2012. Over this same four-year period, the number of students enrolled in developmental education courses at Minnesota colleges and universities during their first two years has dropped by 26 percent – a sign that more Minnesota high school graduates are entering college prepared for the coursework.
CLOSING THE GAP
Reducing the achievement gap between white and minority students and increasing the graduation rate has been a priority in Minnesota. Since 2012, graduation rates for minority students has increased 11.1 percent, compared to 3.3 percent growth in white students. Data released Tuesday also shows a narrowing in the graduation rate gap. White students graduated at a rate 26.5 percent higher than their minority peers, and last year that gap was reduced to 18.7 percent -- a reduction of almost 30 percent.
CHANGES IN GRADUATION CALCULATION
These rates reflect changes in the calculation of graduation rates. Some changes include no longer counting foreign exchange students in a school’s rate, and counting students who drop out at the high school where they spent the majority of their academic career.
SUCCESS AT MINNEAPOLIS' NORTH HIGH SCHOOL
At least one of the seniors on Minneapolis’ North High School basketball team is battling it out to become valedictorian. It's family tradition he wants to continue as his mother was also at the top of her class.
The team knows that schoolwork comes before the game—it’s a value their coach has installed in them since day one.
“I think of it as competing on the court and competing in the classroom,” said senior Da’koi Hines.
Right now, it’s between Hines and two other students.
“For me, education is a hierarchy of how successful I want to be - and a black man in society as well,” he said.
The higher graduation rates can be seen at North High School, where fellow senior Odell Wilson said he attributes success to supportive teachers.
“Our teachers at our school don’t want to see us fail and don’t want to see us not graduate—so they have a good bond with us,” he said.
It’s a far cry from just four years ago when Minnesota ranked second worst in the country for achievement gaps between white students and students of color.
“So when you look from 2012 until now, you see that we’re actually up more than four percent, and that’s the kind of movement we want to see,” said Josh Collins with the department of education.
Still, the Department of Education stresses there’s more work to be done.
The students at North High School say they would like to see more funding for inner city schools to help enrich programs that students in the suburbs currently enjoy.
But, they also enjoy some perks that students in larger districts don’t have access to.
“I like having a smaller environment because you get that one-on-one help that you need with your teacher and you know all the staff at school,” said junior Nasir El-Amin.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff: “I appreciate our students, teachers and staff, whose efforts have resulted in increasing graduation rates over the last six years. This intentional work includes improvements to our credit recovery opportunities, which more than 2,000 students took advantage of last year, and our 9th Grade On-Track efforts, which led to more 9th graders passing their core courses.”
St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard: “Graduation rates remain an important measure propelling students toward college and career readiness. We are pleased that we are exceeding the state average again this year. It's a testament to the work of our students and our teachers. Still, we will continue to work with focus and intention to increase graduation rates among student groups below our district average."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton: “I congratulate Minnesota’s students, teachers, administrators, and parents for their tremendous achievements! This report is great news for our students, who are completing their high school educations better prepared for college and career training than ever before. We have made significant progress to close disparities in our education system, with high school graduation rates for students of color up by more than 11 percentage points since 2012. Despite this progress, unacceptable disparities persist among students of color in our schools. These gaps underscore the need for continued improvements in early education, K-12, and higher education systems to eliminate disparities and ensure better educational opportunities for all Minnesotans.”
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius: "I am so proud of the work our teachers, administrators and communities have done to increase the number of Minnesota students graduating, and to reduce the likelihood that a child’s race or ZIP code will predict their outcome. Most of all, I’m proud of our students. They are better prepared and are less likely to require remedial education."