A number of efforts have been implemented in the local district to encourage students to stay in school and earn their high-school diploma, including a commitment to graduate ceremony held each year with the freshman class.

More students are earning high school diplomas in Minnesota than ever before, according to data recently released by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

According to an MDE press release, the Class of 2015 included more than 54,200 graduates, reflecting an 81.9 percent graduation rate.

Data also showed a closing of the education gap, as graduation rates for students of color continue to rise.

“Graduating from high school is an important step in a student’s life, opening doors to higher education, a wider array of jobs and better wages throughout their lifetime,” said Brenda Cassellius, MDE commissioner. “Every percentage point, every increase, whether it’s a one decimal point or double digits, represents another student who is graduating high school prepared for their next step in life.”

According to Rick Jorgenson, RVHS principal, the Class of 2015, including the alternative learning program, had a graduation rate of 86.6 percent.

“The state goal is 90 percent,” said Jorgenson, “but we are not going to be happy with that. We want 100 percent. We want every student to graduate.”

A number of efforts have been implemented in the local district to encourage students to stay in school and earn their high-school diploma, including a commitment to graduate ceremony held each year with the freshman class. During that ceremony, each student signs a banner indicating they are committed to graduating, and that banner then hangs in the school reminding them of their commitment. This year’s junior class was the first to take part in the ceremony, said Jorgenson. That banner will hang at their graduation.

In addition, the school district also has implemented the Ramp Up program that provides a variety of opportunities for students to learn more about the next stages of their lives, adding it becomes an incentive for them as they see just how important graduating from high school is for their future.

The basic requirement for all high school graduates is 29.5 credits, said Jorgenson.

The recent RVHS results presented by the MDE are the best the school has seen in the past four years, said Jorgenson, adding, however, there is still work to be done.

While year-to-year gains from 2014 were modest, over the last five years the graduation rate for Minnesota students has risen 6.4 percentage points, up from 75.5 percent in 2010. That growth is even more notable when looking at the previous five years where the graduation rate saw a less than one percent increase from 2005-10.

“Reaching our goal of a statewide graduation rate of 90 percent does not happen in one year,” said Cassellius. “It is important to look at trends over time, and since 2010 we have seen the number of students graduating high school increase steadily every year.”

With more students of color graduating across the board, Minnesota is seeing unprecedented gap closure between white students and students of color. Since 2010, Minnesota has closed the graduation gap by 12 percentage points.

“This growth reflects of the hard work and dedication of our teachers and students,” Cassellius said, “but while we celebrate this forward momentum, there is still work to do. As long as we see inequities, we must remain diligent, working each day to fulfill our promise that every student deserves the chance to succeed.”

Over the past five years, Minnesota has placed an increased focus on raising graduation rates for all kids.

Find more information on graduation rates at www.education.state.mn.us.