State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright talks with State Board of Education member Charles McClelland at the February board meeting.

Mississippi’s high school graduation rate is continuing to climb, now approaching the national average.

The graduation rate reached its highest point at 83 percent in the 2016-2017 school year, according to numbers released by the Mississippi Department of Education on Thursday. The national graduation rate sits at 84 percent.

The graduation rate for students with disabilities also slightly increased from 34.7 percent the previous school year to 36.4 percent.

“I congratulate our school districts for ensuring that students are completing high school successfully, so they can pursue their goals in college, postsecondary training, the military or workforce,” State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said. “A diploma is key to success in life after high school.”

Wright pointed out to the State Board of Education on Thursday that graduation rates for all subgroups — which includes females, males, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino, economically disadvantaged and English Language Learners — has increased every year from 2015 to 2018.

The Mississippi Department of Education recently added alternative options for graduation that could replace the passage of the end of year subject-area tests. Before the 2014 school year, students had to complete the required number of Carnegie units and pass subject-area tests in order to earn a diploma.

Now students may graduate by passing the required courses and either passing the subject-area test, obtaining a score of 17 or higher in the subject on the ACT or earning a C or higher in a dual enrollment/dual credit course. In the 2018-2019 school year, students will be able to use subject-area test scores as 25 percent of their final course grades. They will also have the opportunity to earn an endorsement with their diploma.

View the 2018 graduation report here.

Top 10 districts with highest graduation rate:

• Mississippi School for the Arts

• Mississippi School for Math and Science

• Pearl Public School District

• Chickasaw County School District

• Monroe County School District

• Lamar County School District

• Enterprise School District

• Ocean Springs School District

• East Tallahatchie Consolidated School District

• Starkville-Oktibbeha School District

Bottom 10 districts with the lowest graduation rates:

• Oakley Youth Development Center

• Mississippi School for the Deaf

• Yazoo City Municipal School District

• Durant Public School District

• Coahoma County Public School District

• Choctaw County School District

• Greenwood Public School District

• Hazlehurst City School District

• Moss Point School District

• Hattiesburg Public School District

• Jackson Public School District

• Brookhaven School District

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.