State education department: High school graduation rates reach 'historic high'

Minnesota graduation rates have reached "a historic high,"  according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

According to the department, 57,171 students graduated in 2019, which is a rate of 83.7%.

Fewer students are dropping out of high school, according to the MDE; from 2018 to 2019, the dropout rate decreased from 4.6% to 4.4%.

"Our students are persisting," MDE Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said.

"We see the graduation rate going up," Ricker added.

In 2018, the overall graduation rate of high school students in Minnesota was a little more than 83%. That number went up to nearly 84% in 2019, a .5% increase.

In a closer look, nearly 89% of White students are now graduating, up .3% during that timeframe; Close to 88% of Asian students, up 1%; And nearly 70% of Latino and Black students are getting their diplomas, a 3% and 2.5% bump, respectively.

"Our schools that are making progress that's outpacing the state average, or that's closing these gaps, are really putting a priority on building relationships to help students make better academic progress," Ricker said.

The decline in the dropout rate across all student groups is also encouraging.

"What that means, is not only do we have more students graduating in four years, we have more students who are not graduating in four years, choosing to persist, to go on to that year five, choosing to make sure that the diploma is what matters, not the time in school," Ricker explained.

What the commissioner said troubles her most about the new data is the stagnate graduation rates with Native American students hovering at 50%.

"We look really carefully at when gaps are closing, we look just as carefully as when they are not … One of the things with the schools making the most progress with our Native American students' graduation rates is that the majority of those schools engage in regular tribal consultation with the tribal governments around them," said Ricker.

The new graduation rates for students who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability are still fewer than 50%. Commissioner Ricker said this Legislative Session she's pursuing a policy that would create a credit accrual process. That way, these students, who are often forced to go from school to school can build on the classes they've already taken rather than having to start over.

Meanwhile, the number of high school graduates who have enrolled in developmental education classes at state colleges and universities has dropped 10%, which suggests high school graduates are more prepared for college-level coursework, the MDE said.

"I'm proud of all of our students, educators and schools for again posting the highest graduation rate on record. Reaching that high school graduation milestone is a pivotal moment on a student's path to success because it opens up so many different life options," Ricker said.

According to the MDE, graduation rates for black students have increased 5.2% since 2017 while rates for Hispanic students have increased 3.5 %. Rates for American Indian students have remained relatively the same in the past few years, MDE reports.

Learn more about the Minnesota Report Card here.