Minnesota's four-year graduation rate dipped slightly this year, with about 83.3% of high schoolers earning their diplomas on time — tempering a rebound seen last year when graduation rates ticked back up to levels similar to those before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders at the Minnesota Department of Education say the small decrease is due, in part, to errors in tracking students, particularly when they transferred schools. That finding "re-emphasizes the need for schools to keep track of — and report — every single student during their high school career," the state Education Department wrote in a news release announcing the graduation rates this week.

The data also shows slight decreases in the graduation rates for Black, Asian and Latino students and students learning English. In 2022, the graduation rate for Black students jumped to its highest rate ever, 73.5%. Though it dipped to 72.1% in 2023, it still represents an upward trend over the past five years as the state has tried to narrow the achievement gap.

The graduation rate for white students and students identifying as two or more races increased in 2023, and the rate for American Indian students and students receiving special education remained largely unchanged from the previous year.

"High school graduation is a crucial milestone for every student in our schools; it's essential for individual success and the well-being of our communities," Education Commissioner Willie Jett said in a news release. He highlighted recent initiatives around literacy, student mental health and supporting students' needs as ways the state is working to increase graduation rates.

Graduation rates are "an important indicator of the success of our education system," said Michael Rodriguez, dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

According to the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey, most students aim to graduate: Just 1% of the state's students in grades eight, nine and 11 indicated on the survey that they did not plan to graduate from high school.

"The hard reality is that not all students are supported at the same level to meet those requirements," Rodriguez said.

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