Utah high school graduation rates at national average; minority rates down

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SALT LAKE CITY — According to the U.S. Department of Education, Utah's high school graduation rate is up to 76 percent, but some minority student rates have dropped much lower than they were.

Some of the decreased rates resulted from a change in the way the study was done. State education leaders knew about the percentages, but did not know where Utah would be in a list of the 50 states. They are looking at it a serious wake-up call.

For Utah, it's a good news, bad news scenario.

The U.S. Department of Education released a first-ever list of high school graduation rates for every state on Monday. For all high school students in Utah, the graduation rate is currently 76 percent, which puts our state in the middle nationally.

"It's not acceptable," said Governor Gary Herbert. "That's why we have this education excellence commission. We are doing everything we can to raise the bar for achievement in Utah. And it is working. Our graduation rates are actually improving."

Utah's graduation rates for all students increased from 69 percent to 76 percent from 2008 through 2011.

The Governor led his monthly Excellence in Education Commission today. He will take the recommendations of the leaders in education, government and business to create priorities for his budget proposal.

In the meantime, the other number state education leaders are concerned about is that only 57 percent of Hispanic students graduate.

"It takes increased funding for education," said Associate Superintendent of the State Office of Education, Judy Park. "It takes improved programs, improved attention to individual students. It takes families to be involved. It takes communities to be involved."

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Several high school students gave reasons of why their fellow classmates drop out and don't graduate.

"The classes are difficult for them, but they have no way of telling people that they are," said West High School student, Diana. "So, they just decide not to go to class."

Other students talked about how many of the students that don't graduate don't have a good support system at home.

"The parents, the families who are a lot more involved in their kids' lives, they have a much higher graduation rate," said recent high school graduate, Andrew Jordan.

One of the major reasons that the national high school graduation rate has decreased is because the U.S. Dept. Of Education no longer includes students who receive GED certificates, students who go directly to college without a high school diploma and students with severe disabilities who graduate in special programs.


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Carole Mikita


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