May 3, 2016 10:47 AM
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana four-year high school graduation rate for public school students continues its upward trend, reaching 77.5 percent in 2015, the state education department announced Monday. That marked an all-time high and the fifth year that the rate has improved.

Black students remain below the average, but their improvement outpaced the state as a whole, the education department said. The graduation rate for African-American students was 71.4 percent in 2015, up from 67.9 percent the year before and a growth of 12.5 percentage points since 2010.

"Because of the hard work of students, families, and educators, thousands more young people are achieving opportunity for life after high school," said Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement.

The public school districts with the largest improvements were in East Carroll, West Carroll, LaSalle, Iberville, Evangeline and DeSoto parishes and the City of Bogalusa. Local media report that Lafayette's rate rose 7.1 percent to 75.9.

Despite the improvements, Louisiana still lags the nation.

Louisiana's high school graduation rate grew 2.9 percentage points from the 74.6 percent rate in 2014. By comparison, the nation's graduation rate that year was 82.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the latest year for which national data was available.

But White's department said Louisiana is closing the gap. The state graduation rate has grown by 10.3 percentage points in the past five years, compared to 4.1 percentage point nationally, according to the state agency.