The graduation rate for Minnesota's high schools climbed to its highest rate ever, and the three public schools in Douglas County all bested the state average.

One school, Osakis, came close to posting a perfect 100 percent graduation rate. The state listed 53 graduates at the school in 2018, with one dropout, making for a 98.1 percent graduation rate.

"Osakis is a great school. Our staff, students and administration all work very hard to ensure that kids get through high school with the necessary tools to go on to the second stage of their lives, whether it's a two- or four-year school, work or military," said Superintendent Randy Bergquist.

He added that a lot of credit should be given to the students and their parents, and he sees a high level of parent engagement.

Osakis has been above 90 percent the past five years, but this was its best score.

"The biggest thing is that schools have to work really hard to have grad rates where they are," said guidance counselor Melissa Berquist. "We're proud of our team approach."

That includes teachers and support staff striving to make connections with all students.

"Schools are constantly trying to figure out how to get kids college- and career-ready," she said. "Personal connections between teachers and students are key, because everyone needs that one person in the room who believes in them."

Not all students being counted were actually within the rooms of the school that the state put them in. A student can enroll at another school, yet still wind up being counted by the Minnesota Department of Education as part of the initial school's data.

Melissa Bergquist explained that for a variety of reasons, roughly one to three students per graduation year struggle in school, and go to another school or the alternative learning center, which she said is used to help students recover credits, such as with a failing grade.

"I never like to see a student leave the building, (because) you don't have that oversight and aren't able to help them on a regular basis," she said.


Brandon-Evansville High School posted a 90 percent graduation rate in 2018, with 27 graduates, two dropouts and one student marked as continuing.

The 90 percent rate was a 10 percent increase over its figure from 2017. The school had come in with 100 percent graduation rates in both 2014 and 2015.

The graduation rate for Alexandria Area High School of 88.0 percent was approximately 3 percentage points below what it was the past two years. And while it was still about 5 percentage points above the state average, Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said they want to raise that mark above the state's goal for 2020, which has 90 percent of students graduating.