Information compiled by the U.S. Department of Education shows Iowa has the highest high school graduation rate in the country at 88.3 percent.

Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass says this information gives a clearer picture of how Iowa stacks up than what’s been available in the past.

“We’ve always been a high-performing graduation rate state. I think what’s the most significant from the results of that came out from 2011 is it’s the first time we’ve had nearly all the states in the country using the same calculation method. So now we’ve got something more comparable from state to state,” Glass says.

He says there is still room to improve the graduation rate. “I think we have to couch the good news — which is we have the highest graduation rate in the nation at 88-point something percent — with the fact that we still have some room to go, because we want all kids to graduate,” Glass says.

“And we also when we dig into the number of students who are graduating in the state, we have some significant achievement gaps. Kids that come out of disadvantaged backgrounds, kids that have disabilities, we tremendous achievement gaps, some of the largest in the country around that. So we have work to do on closing those gaps.”

Glass says the state not only wants kids to graduate, they want to make sure the diploma those kids receive means something. “That we really have kids that are rigorously prepared for the life that is ahead,” he says, “so this is something that we should be proud of. Hat’s off to the educators who have done the work, but recognize that we’ve got more work to do.”

Glass isn’t exactly sure why Iowa has the top graduation rate, but he says the funding system for schools is perhaps a factor. “Iowa is a state that has for decades had a strong commitment to equity in terms of funding and making sure that every community has a quality school. Some other states have chosen not to do that and what you end up with is some places that will have graduation rates quite high, some quite low,” according to Glass.

“Iowa set up its funding system and the values of its education system so that in every community there is going to be quality school for every kid. That helps us in making sure that every kid has access to a pathway toward graduation.”

The state graduation rate was actually slightly lower than the 2010 rate, which was 89 percent according the report. You can see the entire report on graduation rates