Graduation rates improve, but show the need for more support for students

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota, June 10, 2021 – Graduation rates continue to improve across the state and among most subgroups of students, although significant gaps by race and class remain, according to 2020 data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Nearly 84 percent of last year’s high school seniors graduated in four years, a record high, continuing a steady trend of rising graduation rates over the last several years. Dropout rates also continued a steady decline, dipping from 4.4 percent to 3.7 percent from 2019 to 2020.

“The last two school years have been unprecedented. We must heartily congratulate all the students who have successfully navigated them and graduated,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “At the same time, we thank all the educators who have given their all to support those students through the pandemic. Together, we met more challenges and maneuvered around more obstacles these last two school years than anyone could describe.”

While graduation rates increased statewide for most racial and ethnic student groups, the graduation rate for Black students declined slightly from 2019 to 2020. American Indian students saw a significant increase of 4.9 percentage points for a graduation rate of 55.7 percent. In the previous five years, the four-year graduation rate for American Indian students had remained between 49 percent and 51 percent.

“The data also show we cannot be content with the status quo,” Specht said. “If Minnesota lawmakers can get serious, truly focus and fund what works, we can reduce the opportunity and graduation gaps, get dropout rates down to near zero and raise overall graduation rates even higher. It’s past time for the state to increase its investment in the supports students need to succeed, especially for students of color. Years of chronic underfunding have, without question, contributed to the disparities we still see in the data on graduation rates. Minnesota needs to fully fund its schools.”

Education Minnesota has pushed the Legislature to fund pre-kindergarten and other ongoing programs and increase the investment in policies that help the families hit hardest by the pandemic, including full-service community schools, recruiting and retaining teachers of color, and hiring more counselors and other professionals to support the mental health of students.

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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