TREASURE VALLEY -- The Gem State is making gains in education. Our high school graduation rates are up from last year, and nationally, we've jumped in the ranks.
Even more, President Obama announced Monday that high school graduation rates are at a record high across the country.
Almost 79-percent of high schoolers graduated in the 2014-2015 school year in Idaho, which put us at 39th in the country.
Idaho was 41st in the 2013-2014 school year, and while it's great that our numbers are increasing, Idaho is still below the national average of 83 percent.
It's agreed: Ffrom the state superintendent to the school districts, we still have work to do.
To help increase graduation rates, educators are instilling an idea in students: high school is not the end.
"You begin talking to kids not just about finishing school but what their aspirations are after school," West Ada School District Spokesman Eric Exline said.
High school junior Torry Herrera says that has helped her.
"I think that's where it really starts, actually, is with the educators and the teachers and classroom how they push you and they motive you," Herrera added.
"Good jobs at least, they won't accept you if you don't have a college degree so I feel pushed to do it in order to get a good job and have a good life," Capital High School student Alayna Delauro said.
Delauro says her school offers tons of resources - such as academic counselors and college advising, which is something State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra touts as progress that's contributing to more students graduating.
"We're preparing kids for the 21st century, and without a high school diploma we're doing our kids a disservice," Ybarra told KTVB. "But at same time, we need to make sure that diploma means something."
But she says, they still have work to do.
"Our work is never finished until every student in Idaho is a graduate," Ybarra added.
Exline says West Ada's percentage of 84 percent is not good enough; they're aiming for 87 percent this school year. He says students dropping out can be attributed to them failing classes and getting so far behind that they give up. Another factor is that they're not getting their work turned in - which is something parents can help with.
In addition, because Idaho is so rural, KTVB asked if that may be a reason we're below the national average for graduation rates.
"We did have an economy where a lot of kids went into resource-based careers where you didn't necessarily need a college degree to do it," Exline said.
However, that's changing, and Ybarra says although it's a challenge, it is not an excuse. State Superintendent Ybarra is working on several initiatives to improve education in the Gem State.
"We're still working on mastery-based education, personalizing education for our students," Ybarra said. We need to make sure technology is a huge push."
She is encouraging students to take advantage of the many choices they're offered with career technical education (CTE), or credits that apply to college, like many students in the West Ada School District are doing, as they earn their way to something beyond high school.
"If they have that dream and that goal then they're going to work hard to get it and adults have to be in the building helping them get there every step of the way," Exline said.
Next to the parent, education leaders say there is nothing more important in a student's life than a quality educator in the classroom.
Graduation rates are calculated differently than they were a few years ago. Now, they are based on cohorts: a student is tracked for four years from freshman year to graduation.
Superintendent Ybarra says this is a better way to measure but there are still some issues with this calculation. It is important to factor in whether a student has to take a year off for a medical emergency, or if they have special needs and it takes them a bit longer to graduate.
Gov. Butch Otter released a statement to KTVB about the graduation rate increase. He says:
"We need to see significant improvement in the high school graduation rate, but these latest numbers show we are headed in the right direction. With continued implementation of the task force recommendations, we expect the graduation rate will climb. By offering more instructional options, individualized, mastery-based education, and opportunities for students to earn college credit in high school, Idaho students have added incentives to finish high school and go on."