When the Minnesota Department of Education released the graduation rates for 2018 on Tuesday, April 23, there were two pieces of good news.

First, the state's graduation rate was the highest it has ever been.

"I am proud to announce that more Minnesota seniors than ever before graduated in 2018 with 55,869 students graduating," said Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker. "That is 83.2% of the graduating class overall, making it the state's highest rate on record."

Second, area high schools graduated students at rates higher than the state average. Here are several regional school districts and their respective rates:

  • Red Wing - 89.8%
  • Cannon Falls - 95.7%
  • Hastings - 95.7%
  • Lake City - 91.3%
  • Kenyon-Wanamingo - 89.8%
  • Zumbrota- Mazeppa - 94.0%

"Graduating from high school is a critical step on every student's path to find their own success," Ricker said Tuesday. "One Minnesota includes a commitment to support all of our students to earn a diploma."

As Ricker visits schools across the state, she said she has seen creative programming designed by Minnesota educators to meet the unique needs of their students.

"I see the hard work that educators, administrators, coaches, families, and communities put into supporting the needs of our students so they can reach this important milestone," she said. "I have heard story after story from students around the state about what led them to earning a diploma. Each time I hear a similar refrain about a program or an educator who did not give up on students."

Speaking in a conference call with statewide news media on Tuesday morning, Ricker added that over 1,600 students also earned a Seal of Biliteracy by graduating proficient in two or more languages.

But the story was not bright for everyone.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation, said she was disappointed by the 51 percent graduation rate among American Indians. That group of Minnesotans showed the least graduation improvement.

"As a mom of a native kindergartner ... that certainly is a number that jumped out to me," she said. "No one should be happy with a 51 percent graduation rate."

She and Gov. Tim Walz, both Democrats, presented a budget in which "we are funding and supporting things that we know work to help close those gaps."

American Indian reservations often are in the state's poorest communities.

Ricker said she will use the data from the graduation report to help her identify programs that are effective, especially in improving the graduation rates of minority students.

"I am committed to focusing on where we are succeeding, so that these gaps close," Ricker said. "I am solution-driven to determine where we can learn from programs that are working, and where we, as the Minnesota Department of Education, can offer additional support."

For more information about graduation rates, see the Minnesota Report Card at rc.education.state.mn.us/#mySchool/p--3.