LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The high school graduation rate in California ranks in the bottom half of all U.S. states, with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s own graduation rate well below the state’s, according to data released Tuesday.

New federal figures from the U.S. Department of Education ranked California 32nd out of 50 states in graduating high school students.

But LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that even with his district’s rate of 64 percent — which is far below the state average — the number is gradually trending upward.

“We want to actually be at 80 percent…that is our goal, to move this from 64 [percent] to 80 in three years,” Deasy said.

According to the study, which used a more standardized method of calculating graduation rates nationwide, California was tied with Washington, West Virginia, and Utah at 76 percent, far below the highest rate of 88 percent held by Iowa.

While Deasy said the passage of Proposition 30 will help stabilize school budgets, schools are not expected to receive any additional new funding in the near future, so officials are looking to get students through their courses using alternative methods.

“We’ve reduced the number of suspensions by 46 percent in a single year last year here in L.A.,” he said. “Students can’t graduate if they can’t be with us.”

The improved metric also revealed achievement gaps among various ethnic groups statewide, with Asian or Pacific Islander students holding the highest graduation rate at 89 percent, contrasted with 63 percent for black students.

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