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Utah's high school graduation rate continued to improve in 2014, climbing 2 percent to 83 percent overall, according to data released Friday by the Utah State Office of Education.
The state's graduation rate has increased by 7 percent since 2011, when a new, uniform calculation method was mandated by the federal government.
That increase is driven in large part by Utah's minority students, who lag behind their white peers but in recent years have outpaced the improvement of the state as a whole.
In 2014, the number of Asian students graduating from high school jumped 6 percent to 85 percent overall. Graduation rates for Pacific Islanders increased 5 percent to 82 percent. And Latino students also graduated in greater numbers. State records show a 4 percent bump to an overall graduation rate of 72 percent.
"They have made incredible gains over the last few years," Associate State Superintendent Judy Park said. "Obviously, the schools are doing a lot of good things for us to see those results."
But the new data was not good news for all minority groups. Graduation rates for American Indian students and low-income students stayed flat at 65 percent and 72 percent, respectively. And the graduation rate for black students fell 2 percent to 66 percent overall.
Park said there is reason to be concerned about the slow graduation growth among those populations. But she added that data for comparatively small groups, like Utah's black students, are more susceptible to fluctuations, and all of the state's minority populations have made gains over the past five years.
"I just think it's an opportunity for people to recognize that things are going in the right direction and things are going well," she said.
The graduation rate for white students, who make up roughly three-fourths of Utah's public school population, increased by 1 percent to 86 percent.
Four Utah schools reported a graduation rate of 98 percent, the highest in the state. Those schools include Carbon High School in Price and three charter schools Itineris Early College High School in West Jordan, Orem's Utah County Academy of Sciences and the Northern Utah Academy of Math, Engineering and Science in Layton.
Bountiful High School's graduation rate tied for the fifth-highest. Its graduation rate increased from 93 percent to 97 percent, which Principal Greg Wilkey attributed to a focus on academic advising.
"Until you hit 100 percent, I guess you're always trying to do what you can to help all your students graduate," he said.
Wilkey said that in addition to the school's counselors, Bountiful High faculty are assigned a group of students to meet with on a weekly basis and track their progress toward graduation.
"I think the culture is huge for kids if it's a place where they feel accepted, supported and all those kinds of things," he said. "We have to get it down to more of a one-on-one individual level and that's where our teachers have been good to take on a group of 25 kids that they're more or less responsible for."
State leaders have established a goal of reaching a 90 percent graduation rate by the year 2020. The state is currently on pace to reach that goal, averaging a 2 percent annual increase since the change in the calculation method.
Park said each year she cautions that statewide increases are challenging. But each year she's pleased to see the state inching closer to its goal.
"We've been maintaining that 2 percent increase now for a lot of years," she said. "It's pretty phenomenal when you look at it how long we've been able to sustain that."
The state also documented improvement in graduation rates for English language learners, up 4 percent to 61 percent overall. Graduation rates for students with disabilities also grew 2 percent to 67 percent overall.
firstname.lastname@example.org 2014 High School Graduation Rates
Utah: 83 percent
Alpine School District: 90 percent
Canyons School District: 83 percent
Davis School District: 91 percent
Granite School District: 70 percent
Jordan School District: 85 percent
Murray School District: 83 percent
Salt Lake City School District: 77 percent
All students: 83 percent
Asian: 85 percent
Black: 66 percent
American Indian: 65 percent
White: 86 percent
Hispanic/Latino: 72 percent
Pacific Islander: 82 percent
Economically disadvantaged: 72 percent
English learner: 61 percent
Students with disabilities: 67 percent
Source: Utah State Office of Education Utah high schools with graduation rates above 95 percent
Carbon High School: 98 percent
Itineris Early College HighSchool: 98 percent
Northern Utah Academy for Math Engineering and Science: 98 percent
Utah County Academy of Sciences: 98 percent
Academy for Math Engineering and Science: 97 percent
Bountiful High School: 97 percent
Davis High School: 97 percent
Salem Hills High School: 97 percent
Sky View High School: 96 percent