WASHINGTON -- Although the nation's high school graduation rate is inching higher, there are still wide differences, depending on where students live, according to data released Tuesday by federal education officials.
Iowa and Nebraska have the top high school graduation rates in the country and surpass the national level, according to data released Tuesday by federal education officials.
The figures by the Education Department show Iowa ranked first among all states with a graduation rate of 90.5 percent for the 2013-2014 school year. Nebraska came in second with a graduation rate of 89.7 percent for the same period.
New Jersey and Wisconsin rounded out the third place slot with a graduation rate each of 88.6 percent. New Hampshire and Texas were close behind at 88.1 and 88.3 percent, respectively.
The national high school graduation rate is 82.3 percent, according to the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, which released the latest information. That's slightly higher than the national rate of 81.4 percent for the previous school year.
The data also show a narrowing gap between the national graduation rate of white students and those of black and Hispanic students. The national graduation rate for white students is 87.2 percent; it's 72.5 percent for black students and 76.3 percent for Hispanic students.
Iowa's graduation rate for those groups is higher; it's 92.2 percent for white students; 78.6 percent for black students; and 81.7 percent for Hispanic students. In Nebraska, it's 92.8 percent for white students; 80.9 for black students; and 82.8 percent for Hispanic students.
The education statistics center said the national graduation rate is at its highest level since states adopted a uniform way of calculating their data five years ago. Their numbers show the graduation rate has gradually increased from 79 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.
In a statement, Education Secretary Arne Duncan credited "the hard work of teachers, administrators, students and their families" for the gains. Staci Hupp, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education, said multiple factors contributed to the state's ranking, including teacher leadership training and reading proficiency efforts for students in elementary school.
Messages left for the Nebraska Department of Education were not immediately returned Tuesday.