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School District 833 graduation rates reach new high; achievement gap narrows

District 833 high schools, including Park, posted its highest overall graduation rate in history at 92.6 percent. (Bulletin file photo)

Last year, black high school students in District 833 graduated at nearly the same rate as their white classmates, evidence of an achievement gap closure in a year that also saw the district’s highest overall graduation rate of 92.6 percent.

Movement toward closing the graduation gap among white students and minority classmates was evident in a Minnesota Department of Education graduate rates report released Feb. 22.

Black students posted a 92.4 percent graduation rate compared with 92.8 percent for white students. The 2015 graduation rate for black students in District 833 was 86.3.

Brian Boothe, director of professional development and accountability cautioned that it only takes a few students to push the graduation rate north or south. But the improved graduation rates of black students is encouraging.

“For African American students, we saw almost a complete closure of our achievement gap,” Boothe said. “That certainly is a positive indicator. We try not to get too overly excited or disappointed when the numbers come in because you don't want to tie yourself to one thing. But graduation is a great indicator of success.”

Hispanic students also improved their graduation rate to 87 percent, a notable increase from 80.8 in 2015.

Preparing a student to graduate starts in elementary school, Boothe said.

“Credit families and teachers at the earlier grade levels,” he said.

Districtwide, the graduation rate was a record high 92.6 percent, more than 10 points higher than the overall state rate of 82.2 percent, which is itself a record.

Local graduation rates include 95.5 percent for East Ridge, 95 for Park and 95.9 for Woodbury.

“Our high school staffs work incredibly hard to keep an eye on every student in the system to make sure they’re on track,” Boothe said. “The credit goes there. We offer a great variety of course that keep kids interested and engaged and motivated to attend school We offer support service for student that are struggling.”

South Washington County Alternative High School posted a graduation rate of 32.2 percent up from 31.8 percent. But the cohort is different, since most students transfer from one of the three District 833 high schools.

Across the state, graduation rates moved up. The state saw its highest overall rate on record at 82.2 percent.

"Graduating high school is a crucial step in attaining the dream we all have for success in life," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement. "It is encouraging to see more Minnesota students — especially more of our students of color and American Indian students — reaching this milestone. It’s a promising step for stronger futures."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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