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Work still to do; but headed in right direction

More Mississippi students are graduating from high school, according to data released this week. The state’s 83 percent graduation rate is a record high. That’s great news for students and the state in general.

Mississippi Department of Education officials said graduation rates rose for all groups of students, with African Americans at 79.3 percent and children from lower income families at 79.9 percent. The graduation rate for children with disabilities, 28 percent in 2015, has risen to 36 percent.

But it may not be entirely rosy. About 20 percent of students now graduate without passing end-of-course exams in English II, algebra I, biology and United States history, according to previous figures released by the department, which could be contributing to higher graduation rates, The Associated Press reported. Students can now skip passing those exams if they can show alternate measures of proficiency, such as an ACT score of 17 or better, grades of C or better in a college course, or scores on military entrance exams.

At the same time those changes were made, Mississippi’s graduation began improving, rising from 74.5 percent of students in the Class of 2014 earning a diploma over four years to 83 percent now, AP reported.

The picture isn’t quite the same locally. The Brookhaven School District posted one of the state’s lowest graduation rates. Its rate of 71.9 percent was the 10th worst. Clearly, there’s work to be done. Lincoln County’s 86.3 percent topped the state and national average. 

Mississippi should be proud of any improvement in the graduation rate, but that doesn’t mean there is not work to do. The state still lags the national average of 84 percent.

State Superintendent Carey Wright said the higher rate is just one measure showing Mississippi schools are improving.

“Are we where we want to be nationally? No,” said Wright. “Are the trend lines headed in the right direction? Absolutely.”

It’s hard to disagree with Wright.