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Graduation rates bring good news for Cloquet, Carlton County


Below are Carlton County 2016 high school graduation rates for four-year students:

Esko 97.87

Moose Lake 96.36

Barnum 96.36

Cromwell 95.45

Cloquet 93.45 (American Indian 95.83)

Wrenshall 92.31

Carlton 80.65*

* Percent includes four foreign exchange students who attend school but don't graduate.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education


Many school districts in the state of Minnesota suffer from what is known as the "achievement gap" in test scores between some ethnicities and Caucasian students.

The Cloquet School District has the opposite problem, according to graduation rates released this week by the Minnesota Department of Education. The district's American Indian students graduated at a rate of 95.83 percent — better than the district's overall graduation rate of 93.45 percent.

"I guess you could say that," Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said. "But really, what we have in Cloquet is a great success story and great teamwork between students, parents and teachers."

According to state data, 23 of the 24 American Indian students enrolled at CHS for the last four years graduated, contributing to quite a success story in Carlton County schools.

"What we've had in Cloquet is an example of what happens when you get teamwork and cooperation," Scarbrough said. "Our staff has done a terrific job and parents and students take ownership of education all throughout the year. The result is what you see here."

State data is kept for four, five and six years at every school in the state. Students who enter a district midway through their education are not counted against the district they attend, and that sometimes skews the results.

For example: every high school in Carlton County graduated its four-year students at a rate of 90 percent or better during 2016 — but Carlton's rate shows officially at 80.65 percent because four foreign exchange students are counted against their enrollment numbers.

In small school districts, technicalities like that one can skew the data.

"The rate posted by MDE does not reflect the consistently strong graduation rates of Carlton High School," Superintendent Gwen Carmen said. "Without the inclusion of the foreign exchange students, our 2016 graduation rate is 92 percent. We are proud of the foreign exchange students enrolled in our high school each year and the cultural education and experiences they provide our students and classrooms."

Starting next year, the Department of Education will no longer include foreign exchange students in school graduation rates.

Graduation figures for Carlton County high schools range from 97.87 percent in Esko, which traditionally leads most Carlton County measurements, to 92.31 percent in Wrenshall and Carlton's adjusted rate of 92 percent.

But in Cloquet, the celebration over the success of American Indian students — as well as graduates from the Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program (CAAEP) — is real.

Statewide, 52.6 percent of American Indian students graduate, which means the Cloquet School District not only breaks the curve, it destroys it.

Also statewide, Minnesota schools graduated students at an 82.2 percent rate, the third highest overall rate on record.

But for Scarbrough, CAAEP also holds an important place in his heart.

"We graduated 16 students last year from CAAEP and if you've ever seen their ceremony, it's really something," Scarbrough said. "These are kids who have turned their educational situation around and they've succeeded. It's really a great thing to see."

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