Marshall graduation rate continues slide

MARSHALL — The Marshall High School graduation rate, while still above the state average, continued its downward trend, according to a Minnesota Department of Education report released on Thursday.

Minnesota high school graduation rates for 2016 reached a record-high 82.2 percent. Marshall recorded a 83.5 percent rate, a drop form 86.8 percent in 2015.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called the record-setting statistics “good news” but stressed that there were still important strides to be made in the future.

“We have made significant progress over the last five years,” Dayton said in a statement. “Despite this improvement, disparities between students of color and white students persist. These gaps underscore the need to invest in quality preschool, early education initiatives and K-12 funding to stop these disparities before they start. All Minnesota students need and deserve excellent educations. I look forward to working with the Legislature this session to make needed investments to help all students succeed.”

Locally, seven high schools saw graduation rates drop from a year ago, though all of them were above the state average (82.2 percent).

“For the past several years, we are seeing an increase in the number of students coming to Marshall during their high school years but who may not be able, for various reasons, to graduate on time and with their class,” Marshall Superintendent Scott Monson said. “That is one of the reasons we also look at five- and six-year graduation rates.”

The information included in the 2016 graduation rates report also revealed that 8.3 percent (17 students) continued education, 5.3 percent (11) dropped out and 2.9 percent (6) had an unknown status at MHS.

“We look at graduation rates in four-year, five-year and six-year ‘cohorts’ or groups of students, with an ultimate goal of graduating all students (at some point in time),” Monson said. “We are pleased that some of our graduation rates increased at both MHS and MATEC. However, we will continue to focus on opportunities for improvement because that’s what our students need.”

After an increase in graduation rates from 2012 (88.2 percent) to 2013 (89.8), MHS continued its declining rate. In 2014, the rate was 88.8 percent (151 students), followed by 86.8 percent (158) in 2015.

“Our World’s Best Workforce Plan has several actions, activities or initiatives that are focused on improving our graduation rate,” Monson said. “These include things like grade checks (and follow up on those) every three weeks; offering a wide menu of supports and interventions to students who have fallen behind in credits, come to us behind in credits or are starting to fall behind in credits; focusing on re-teaching and re-assessing skills; getting (even) more students involved in co- and extracurricular activities and continuing to emphasize the importance of student attendance and graduating from high school.”

MATEC graduated 11 students for a 52.4 percent rate, slightly higher than in 2015 (52.2 percent, 12 students). Since 2012 (28.6 percent, 8 students), the graduation rates at MATEC have trended upward considerably.

Two area schools graduated at 100 percent this past school year. Red Rock Central and Westbrook-Walnut Grove both graduated all 24 students in 2016. Canby High School’s rate stayed exactly the same (98 percent).

Graduation rates at Minneota and Lakeview also improved. Minneota High School improved its rates from 93.7 percent to 97.4 percent in a year’s time. Lakeview went from 93.9 in 2015 to 94.4 this past year.

Dawson-Boyd High School saw a small decrease from 2015 (97.9), recording a 97.1 percent graduation rate in 2016. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton fell just over 3 percent, from 93.8 percent to 90.2 percent.

Four other area schools saw their numbers decline significantly from 2015. Wabasso High School’s graduation rates dropped 4.7 percent, while Tracy Area fell 6.6 percent, followed by Murray County Central (6.7 percent) and Yellow Medicine East (9.1).

Statewide, Minnesota’s graduation rate has been trending upward. In 2012, the state average rate was 77.9 percent, followed by 79.8 percent (2013), 81.2 percent (2014) and 81.9 percent (2015).

“Our (Marshall High School) graduation rates are higher than comparable districts with similar demographics and nearly the same as the state,” Monson said. “Yet, we want to continue to improve on them.”

Demographics often play a large role in education. Along with all-students statistics, the MDE also provides data through six student sub-categories. In 2016, the MDE reports that white students (69 percent) significantly outnumber other groups. Ten percent of students are categorized as Black/African American, followed by Hispanic/Latino (9 percent), Asian (7), two or more races (4) and American Indian/Pacific Islander (2).

Most area schools have well above the state average for white students. Ninety-eight percent of Canby’s and Wabasso’s student population are white. Minneota and RTR have a 94-percent population of white students.

YME High School has a 12 percent American Indian population — much higher than most in the area. WWG and Tracy Area High Schools have higher than average Asian population, with 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

“Minnesota students continue to make steady progress,” Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said. “The graduation rate for students of color has increased by 19.6 percentage points since 2006. However, significant opportunity gaps still limit far too many young people. That’s why we must continue investing in high-impact strategies to close Minnesota’s opportunity gaps, and ensure every student leaves high school prepared for career training and higher education.”

At Marshall High School, 71 percent of students are white, followed by Hispanic/Latino (12 percent), Black/African American (9), Asian (7) and Two or More Races (1).

The student population at MATEC has somewhat of a different makeup, with 48 percent white students in addition to 35 percent Hispanic/Latino, 15 percent Black/African American and 2 percent Asian.

A focus on graduation rates is a key component of our World’s Best Workforce Plan,” Monson said. “As such, there are specific actions and activities we are doing, and will continue to do, to increase our rates even more.”

Regardless of the successes or challenges, most school administrators admit that improving education is a never-ending process, which is a good thing.

“Our state expects to face a workforce shortage of more than 100,000 workers by 2020,” Smith said. “We cannot afford to leave a single Minnesota student unprepared for the job opportunities of the 21st century economy.”

To view more information on The Minnesota Report Card, go to: and select “My School” to search specific institutions