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According to new data from the Department of Education, graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students increased by nearly four percentage points from 2011 to 2013, outpacing growth for all students in the nation.

Even though the gap between Black and Hispanic students and their White/Asian counterparts is closing and more minorities are receiving high school diplomas, the overall graduation rate is still significantly low.

On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary John King from the Department of Education joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to discuss the achievement gap in America and what can be done to eradicate it completely.

King attributes the increase in graduation rates amongst minorities to closing “dropout factories” and the implementation of “better metrics.” He told Martin:

“We’ve set out a clear common standard for measuring graduation rates and that’s helped focus the attention of the country. And then under the last six years under the President’s leadership, we’ve really focused on dropout factories, high schools that have had chronically low graduation rates.”

Deputy Sec. King touted New York City’s approach to combating dropout factories and chronically low graduation rates by way of reorganizing them into “small schools where there would be a lot more attention on the needs of individual students and often themes that would attract student interests.”

Attracting students to themed schools for a technical education, preparation for careers in criminal justice, or a focus on project-based learning, as well as other themed educational-based programs (all coupled with close relationships between teachers and students), have had a positive impact on high school students in the Big Apple.

In these smaller schools, teachers “would know if a student was missing for a day, they would call to make sure that they (students) would come to school.”

“That kind of attention helps students stay focused and stay in school,” King added.

King also said partnering with community-based organizations and non-profits is “critical” because these entities help get students on track if they are missing school summer jobs programs and are “important to keep students on track moving through high school.”

Despite the good news that graduation rates are increasing amongst minority students, King said the risk to recent progress is the “current discussion in Congress, around the elementary and secondary education act.” King also cited that some in Congress might want to “take us backwards” by reducing resources from the highest needs communities, reducing our focus on low performing schools and “take us back to an earlier era.”

Watch Martin and Deputy Sec. King discuss the economic achievement gap in the video clip above.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education.

Be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, weekdays at 9 a.m. EST on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.

SEE ALSO: All Of The Above: What If Education Was Measured By More Than A Test?

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