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New focus on racial disparity after record graduation numbers for Minnesota Schools

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The State of Minnesota has its highest graduation rates in the state's history.

In 2011,  graduation rates were 77-percent. Last year, they were almost 83-percent. A new record, but not everyone is celebrating.

State officials say they are happy with the report but acknowledge there’s room for growth.

"We certainly have more work to do, but there are some really exciting things that we're seeing in the data," said Josh Collins with the Minnesota Department of Education.

The report shows a record graduation rate for 2017 of 82.7%, up 4.3% from 2012 results.

One of its goals is to reduce racial disparities between students, a problem all too familiar to Anas Abdi. Abdi was supposed to be graduating this spring but didn’t meet the credit requirements. It’s a problem he said continues at Moorhead High School.

“I know 20 people who go to my high school right now, they're not graduating because they don't have enough credits."

But Abdi is hoping others can learn from his story.

"I don't want them to be like me, the way I left from the school. I just want them to get diploma, you know?"

Abdi came to the United States from Kenya in 2013, already a High School graduate at 16.

After moving, he decided to pursue a diploma from the United States, but the new town and language brought a struggle like he'd never faced.

"There's another teacher that told me, 'you'd rather go work at Walmart.' I told him, that's not a good way to advise me, you know."

After 3 years of trying, he was told he won't get there, and there was not enough time to get the credits he needed.

So Abdi took his concerns to the Moorhead School Board at a meeting Monday night, looking for some way to help other students in the same situation.    

While the graduation gap between white students and that other races has shrunk by about 30% in the last 5 years, the state plans to intervene early to help kids get back on track.

"We wanna make sure that all schools are meeting those needs for every child, not just students who might be well off or have more advantages than others,” said Collins.

Moorhead Public Schools said they are pleased with the results for the state. Officials also said they are encouraging students who need extra time to stay as long as their age or need allows.