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Minnesota's 4-Year Graduation Rate Fell A Half Percentage Point In 2021, Education Officials Say

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Department of Education on Wednesday released the class of 2021's high school graduation rate data, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor in the rate's slight decrease.

According to MDE, 83.3% of the class of 2021 – 57,137 students – graduated in four years, which represents a half percentage drop in the four-year graduation rate compared to the class of 2020.

MDE says the small decrease was influenced by a 0.3% increase in the dropout rate and 0.2% increase in the unknown rate. The 2020-2021 school year was the first full year of school impacted by the pandemic.

"The class of 2021 faced incredibly difficult circumstances in their final years of high school. I am extremely proud of our 2021 graduates and the educators, leaders, staff and families who helped them make it to graduation," Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller said. "The slight decrease in our graduation rate reinforces how challenging the pandemic has been on our students. We remain committed to ensuring every single Minnesota student graduates from high school, whether that is in four years, five years, six years or more."

The 83.3% graduation rate is for all students. Graduation rates for minority students fall in a more troubling range. American Indian students graduated at a rate of 58.5% in 2021. That represents a 0.1% increase from 2020.

The graduation rate also increased for Black students, from 69.2% to 70.4%, and for students who identify as two or more races (1.1% increase to 74.6%).

The graduation rate for students who identify as Asian decreased by 1.7% to 87.4%. English learners and students receiving special education services also saw slight decreases in their graduation rate.

The graduation rate for students who identify as white decreased by 0.7% to 88.3% in 2021.

In 2019, a report from the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis found deep disparities in education outcomes across all of Minnesota when researchers studied performance on standardized tests, graduation rates, and indicators of college readiness across racial, socio-economic and ethnic lines.

Gov. Tim Walz called fixing this achievement gap a "moral" and "economic" imperative, especially since the pandemic has widened these inequities.

Now, Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan says their proposed budget aims to "stabilize" education funding by investing 2% more on the general education formula.

"The budget also invests in targeted efforts and programs that have been shown to increase graduation rates, such as the Minnesota Multi-tiered System of Supports, Full-Service Community Schools and additional support personnel to help students with a variety of needs, including those who may be at risk of falling behind," MDE said in a release.

In 2021, nearly 3,600 students earned their diplomas in five, six or seven years after beginning high school.

More information on the state's graduation rate can be found on the Minnesota Report Card.

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