The right direction

Published 9:00 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

A.L. district’s grad rate improves 5% from 2019

The Albert Lea school district’s four-year graduation rates improved by 5% overall from 2019 to 2020, according to new data released this week by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Eighty percent of students in the district graduated in four years in 2020, which is up from 75% in 2019.

“To see our district student rate increase by 5% during the start of the pandemic demonstrates a tremendous commitment from our students, their families and our staff,” said Albert Lea Area Schools Superintendent Mike Funk. “These are very good results, as we continue to move toward our district goal of a 90% graduation rate.”

Increases came across all student demographic populations:

• Hispanic and Latino students increased from 70.5% graduating in four years in 2019 to 76.3% in 2020.

• Asian students went from 71.4% in 2019 to 80% in 2020

• White students increased from 79.1% to 84.6%

• English learners increased from 57.9% to 73.53%

• Special education students increased from 58.5% to 65.3%

• Students receiving free or reduced price meals increased from 63.9% to 72.08%

A press release from the school district said the increases across the various student populations reflect the hard work and dedication from students on their graduation path, as well as staff, and the support given to students to achieve the increased graduation goal.

Students move their tassels to the other side of their caps after receiving their diplomas during the first graduation ceremony in 2020. Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

According to the data, almost 86% of students at Albert Lea High School graduated in four years in 2020 and 93.17% had graduated after seven years. In 2019, the four-year rate was 88.56% and in 2018 it was 86.22%.

For the Albert Lea Area Learning Center, 63.93% graduated in four years. This was up from 38% in 2019 and 52.7% in 2018.

Statewide, high school graduation rates held steady. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Thursday that almost 84% of last year’s seniors graduated in four years. That’s a new record but only by one-tenth of a percentage point over 2019. Dropout rates continued a steady decline, dropping from 4.4% to 3.7%.

Still, large gaps remain between student groups. About 89% of white and Asian students graduated in four years compared to 70% of Hispanic students, 69% of Black students and about 56% of American Indian students. That group saw a nearly 5% increase in graduates last year, the biggest gain of any student group in 2020.

Data for the class of 2021 won’t be available until sometime next year.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report