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Study: Vt. has highest high school graduation

Lisa Rathke, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont can boast the country's highest high school graduation rate, 91.4 percent, edging out Wisconsin by three-tenths of a point, according to a report released by U.S. Education Department on Tuesday.

Vermont has traditionally been among the states with the highest graduation rates so being at the top this year wasn't a surprise.

"This just validates the good work that's going on the schools, the sort of wraparound services that are available for kids because many times students graduate on time because they've been provided not just the academic but also the social and emotional support at schools to make it through those rough times," said Vermont Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca.

Vermont's graduation rate was more than 13 points better than the national average of 78.2 percent for the 2009-2010 school year, the highest since 1976.

But there's still room for improvement, Vilaseca said. The number of high school students who continue their education is lower, with only about half going on to college.

"The governor and I really want to make sure kids are graduating prepared to continue their education," said Vilaseca.

Some of the efforts under way are to make sure kids attend quality preschools, intervening at an early age if students are not achieving at certain grade levels and creating learning plans geared toward what a student might be interested in pursuing at a career.

"All those things lead to not only a better prepared graduate but reducing the number of kids who drop out of school," said Vilaseca, who said that the state needs to do more to reduce the dropout rate of 2.4 percent.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the increase in graduation rates grew from a recognition that a good education leads to a good job. The trends are hopeful but the high school drop rate is unsustainably high, he said, at 3 percent overall, with Arizona having the highest rate of 8 percent, followed by Mississippi and Washington, D.C. both at 7 percent.