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Minn. high school graduation rates inch up

ST. PAUL—High school graduation rates inched up across the state, according to Minnesota Department of Education data released Tuesday.

At 83 percent, the state's on-time graduation rate improved by one-sixth of a percentage point.

High school completion has been trending up in Minnesota and across the country for several years, even as standardized math and reading test scores largely have been flat.

And while all racial subgroups have improved, wide gaps remain in Minnesota with far more whites and Asians graduating on time than black, Hispanic and American Indian students.

"While our graduation rates have continued to climb and gaps are narrowing, we have too many students who are not receiving a diploma," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a prepared statement.

In the state's two biggest cities, Minneapolis Public Schools' rate dropped by more than a full percentage point, to 66 percent while in St. Paul Public Schools, 77 percent of last year's class graduated within four years, nearly a full percentage point better than in 2016.

Under the new federal education law, Minnesota is reporting graduation rates in greater detail going forward, with seven ethnic groups instead of five.

It has also redefined subgroups to count more students as low-income, special education and English learners.

As part of that change, the state recalculated data from 2012 to 2016.

In past years, the state has released five- and six-year graduation data in addition to four-year numbers. Seven-year completion rates are included in the latest release.

Cassellius on Tuesday also noted a steep decline in the share of students forced to take remedial courses at college, which she said was evidence students are leaving high school better prepared.

However, that trend has coincided with a push within Minnesota State public colleges and universities to use alternative college-readiness measures so that students don't have to take remedial courses.

According to the company that administers the ACT, 31 percent of Minnesota test takers are ready for college-level algebra, English composition, social science and biology. Nationwide, that figure is 27 percent.