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Utah's graduation rate continued its upward trend in 2015, increasing from 83 percent to 84 percent of high school seniors statewide.

The new data, released Monday by the State Office of Education, show that graduation rates in the state have increased by 15 percentage points since 2008, when the federal government created a national calculation method for state-by-state comparisons.

"It's good to see that, for the most part, the needle is moving in the right direction," State Superintendent Brad Smith said in a prepared statement. "But it is also clear that there is more work to do. We in public education intend to do that work."

Each of the state's demographic subgroups saw increased graduation rates last spring, in some cases four times greater than the state's 1 percent bump.

The graduation rate for American Indian students, English-language learners and children from low-income households climbed 4 percentage points in 2015, to 69 percent, 65 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

Hispanic students, Utah's largest minority group, saw a gain of 2 percentage points in 2015, from 72 percent to 74 percent.

Mark Peterson, spokesman for the State Office of Education, said the data are "great news," showing gains among both white and minority students.

"We're closing the achievement gap and we're closing it the right way," he said. "It's hard to complain about this report. This is a good one."

In 2012, Utah's education, government and business leaders created the so-called "66 by 2020" goal, which calls for 66 percent of Utah adults to hold a post-high school certificate or degree by the year 2020.

Included in that goal are a series of benchmarks for public education, including a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

With five years remaining, Peterson said the state is making steady progress toward reaching that goal.

"It's certainly doable," he said.

This year's gain is slightly smaller than recent years.

Peterson said Utah's graduation rate is not necessarily plateauing, but sustained improvement becomes more difficult as schools near full graduation.

"The closer you get to 100 percent," he said, "the harder it's going to be to push it that much further."

Out of Utah's 41 school districts, 16 saw graduation rates of 90 percent or higher in 2015, according to the data.

Nine charter schools also reached that benchmark.

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