By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Despite graduating during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota’s high school senior class of 2020 set a graduation rate record.

The Minnesota Department of Education announced Thursday that the overall graduation rate last year for Minnesota’s high school seniors was 83.8%, a slight increase over the 2019 graduation rate. The new record continues an upward trend as the state’s graduation rate has climbed 1.3 percentage points over the last five years.

In a statement, Dr. Heather Mueller, the education commissioner, commended the class of 2020 for their perseverance while navigating the early days of the pandemic.

“This was a time of great uncertainty, and the perseverance of our students, educators and families demonstrates their commitment to rise to this moment and reach the end of their pre-K through grade 12 journey,” she said.

Still, Mueller said that more work needs to be done to address gaps in graduation rates. Although most racial and ethnic student groups saw a rise in graduation rates last year, the rate for Black students declined slightly — from 69.9% in 2019 to 69.2% in 2020.

But there were also signs of progress. For American Indian students, the rate of graduation jumped in 2020 by nearly 5 percentage points to 55.7%. While the group’s graduation rate is still more than 30 points below that of their white counterparts, last year’s rate marked a significant increase over the average of the previous five years.

Last year also saw a decline in the number of students dropping out of high school. From 2019 to 2020, the overall dropout rate decreased from 4.4% to 3.7%, declining for every major student group.