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While many officials hail Maryland schools as No. 1 in the nation, new data show that the state is behind 11 others in the percentage of students who graduate.

The U.S. Department of Education released statistics Nov. 26 ranking states by high school graduation rates, reflecting new data reported consistently nationwide.

At an 83 percent graduation rate, Maryland falls behind 11 other states and ties five states out of 49 education systems, including the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education. Data were not available for four education systems.

The national average graduation rate, based on the data from the 2010-11 school year, was 78 percent.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota also have graduation rates of 83 percent.

At 88 percent, Iowa graduates high school students in four years at the highest rate.

Within Maryland, 93 percent of Asian students graduate, along with 89 percent of white students. Reflecting a persistent achievement gap, 76 percent of black students and 72 percent of Hispanic students graduate in four years.

The data were preliminary, according to the Department of Education statement, and will be finalized by the department in the coming months.

Rates were for the 2010-11 school year, the first year in which all states reported graduation rates using uniform data. Prior to 2011, state education departments used varying methods to report four-year graduation rates, making comparisons difficult.

Previously, Maryland reported graduation rates at 87 percent in the 2009-10 school year and 80 percent in 2008-09.

Maryland State Department of Education spokesman William Reinhard said that while the information in the report is good to have, education officials have known Maryland’s performance in graduation rates for some time.

“Our goal is to improve the education system in Maryland, not to be better than other states,” Reinhard said. “But it is good to see that, on average, we’re doing well.”

The new, uniform methods are the result of 2008 federal regulation. Beginning with data from 2011-12, graduation rates will be used to hold states accountable for school performance.

hnunn@gazette.net