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At smaller Minnesota schools, grad rates fluctuate

The commencement ceremony at Blackduck High School in 2014. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI—New Minnesota Department of Education statistics indicate that Minnesota high schoolers graduated on-time at a record-high pace last year.

Some Bemidji-area school districts followed that trend and others didn't, but many have relatively small student bodies, which can make statistics such as graduation rates seemingly fluctuate wildly year-to-year.

The graduating class of 2017 at Kelliher Public School, for instance, was 12 students strong, according to state data—one student fewer than the year before. But the graduation rate there rocketed from 76.5 percent to 85.7 percent.

Here are the four-year high school graduation rates of several northwest Minnesota school districts since 2013, plus the number of graduating students represented by that figure, for context:

Bagley School District: 2013: 84.3 percent (59 students); 2014: 84.0 percent (68 students); 2015: 77.3 percent (51 students); 2016: 75.4 percent (43 students); 2017: 77.9 percent (53 students).

Blackduck Public School: 2013: 89.2 percent (33 students); 2014: 88.2 percent (45 students); 2015: 87.0 percent (40 students); 2016: 88.2 percent (45 students); 2017: 83.3 percent (35 students).

Cass Lake-Bena Schools: 2013: 45.7 percent (32 students); 2014: 41.3 percent (33 students); 2015: 50.7 percent (36 students); 2016: 50.0 percent (41 students); 2017: 53.5 percent (46 students).

Kelliher Public School: 2013: 91.7 percent (22 students); 2014: 92.9 percent (13 students); 2015: 77.3 percent (17 students); 2016: 76.5 percent (13 students); 2017: 85.7 percent (12 students).

Laporte Public School: 2013: 58.8 percent (10 students); 2014: 83.3 percent (20 students); 2015: 83.3 percent (15 students); 2016: 85.0 percent (17 students); 2017: 75.0 percent (12 students).

Red Lake School District: 2013: 29.5 percent (28 students); 2014: 25.0 percent (20 students); 2015: 22.6 percent (21 students); 2016: 22.3 percent (21 students); 2017: 33.7 percent (31 students).

Statewide, the graduation rate was 82.7 percent, which education department staff said is the highest figure they have on record. For the Bemidji Area Schools district, the graduation rate was 88 percent in 2017.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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