- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota continues to trail the rest of the country in on-time graduation for high school students of color.

An analysis by Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1zQPs4k ) found fewer than 60 percent of Minnesota’s black and Hispanic students finished high school in four years as of 2012-13. That rate was 49 percent for Native American students and about 78 percent for Asian-American students.

Minnesota was the only state to be in the bottom five for those four nonwhite student categories. The statewide four-year graduation rate was about 80 percent and is near the middle of the pack.

White students graduated on time at an 85 percent rate in Minnesota.

Brenda Cassellius, the state’s education commissioner, said the achievement gap is due in part to Minnesota’s tougher graduation requirements.

Achieve, a nonpartisan organization that works with states to boost academic standards, says only Minnesota, 22 other states and the District of Columbia fully prepare students for college or a career. Alissa Peltzman, the group’s vice president for state policy, said it’s “not sufficient or meaningful” to compare only graduation rates when gauging student preparation.

But Cassellius said stricter requirements aren’t a good enough reason for the gap between white and nonwhite students in her state.

“We know in Minnesota that we hadn’t done a good job of paying attention to the gap for many, many years,” Cassellius said.

Michael Rodriguez, an educational psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, said dropping out of high school can drag on future generations. He said dropouts would have fewer employment opportunities, would be less likely “to engage in good health,” and that their children would grow up in poverty.

This gap would also hurt the state’s economy, according to Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education.

“We really have to up our efforts there so we don’t stunt economic growth by lacking the workforce to do the work,” Pogemiller said.

Pogemiller wants more programs that help keep nonwhite students on track. Cloquet Public Schools has added tutors and family liaisons for Native American students, and the graduation rate among those kids was 10 percentage points higher than the state average.

State officials want to bump up Minnesota’s overall on-time graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no groups below 85 percent.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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