Minnesota's 2016 graduation rates are out and while the overall rate is at an all-time high, the Duluth district saw a three percent drop and still quite a gap when it comes to the graduation rates of minority students.
Since 2012 Duluth's graduation rate has remained pretty stagnant. This year the rate is 74 percent, about eight percent lower than the state average of 82.2 percent.
While Harry Welty of the Duluth School Board calls the lack of significant improvement unacceptable, he said the district has been trying to address these issues for a long time.
"I know that's not for want of trying," he said. "We have some remarkable administrators working with our students."
Superintendent Bill Gronseth points to interventions such as the expanding career and technical education program or programs geared towards supporting minority students but overall he said change needs to happen outside the classroom.
"It really takes all of us working together as a community to make sure that we're addressing those issues that often stem from poverty issues to help families at a very early stage in their development all the way through school," he said.
Minority students now make up 22 percent of the student body with the largest groups, black and Native American students lagging below the state average when it comes to graduation rates in those demographics.
According to Welty, changing that comes down to having a staff that reflects and acknowledges that growing minority population.
"I think that it really helps children to have somebody that they can look at and say I can put myself in my teacher's shoes," he said.
It's important to note that this study looked specifically at four-year graduation rates and while only three in four students are graduating in that time frame 15 percent of students continue onto fifth or sixth years.
Many of those students attend the Area Learning Center which has grown in attendance but maintains a 30 percent 4-year graduation rate.
"The ALC really works with students who have a lot of challenges in their lives and they are less likely to graduate in four years because they may be off-track on their credits," Gronseth said.
Gronseth maintains their goal is still to have all students graduate on-time, but in the end the priority is seeing students graduate no matter how long it takes.
The school district also hopes greater community involvement, outreach and teacher visits to homes can help keep these students involved and motivated to graduate on time.