More Latinos are graduating from high school than they were nearly a decade ago, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the report done by the National Center for Education Statistics, Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 71 percent in 2010. That is a striking jump from 2006, when the rate was 61 percent.

The national rate is 78 percent and the rate for white students is 83 percent. African Americans have the lowest rate at 66 percent while Asians graduated at a rate of 93 percent.

It’s promising that high school graduation rates are up for all ethnic groups in 2010 – especially for Hispanics, whose graduation rate has jumped almost 10 points since 2006.

- Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

“The new NCES report is good news,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “It’s promising that high school graduation rates are up for all ethnic groups in 2010 – especially for Hispanics, whose graduation rate has jumped almost 10 points since 2006.”

Still, Duncan said, Latinos have a long way to go.

"The trends are hopeful but our high school dropout rate is still unsustainably high and it's untenable in many of our African-American and Latino communities,” he said. “We have a long way to go here."

Jack Buckley, Commissioner for the NCES, said while Latinos are performing better, the numbers are also up because more people are identifying themselves as Hispanic.

“The population of students has changed and there are more identifying themselves as Latinos,” Buckley said.

Buckley pointed to California as an example of the improvements among Latinos. About 59 percent of Latinos in that state graduated in 2006, a number that climbed to 71 percent four years later.

According to Buckley, half of California’s 4th graders identify themselves as Latino. He said the economy could be the reason for the improved scores.

“One thing that we see across the country in general is that graduation rates goes up when the economy goes down,” said Buckley.

There’s a reason why education goes up when the economy tanks.

"If you drop out of high school, how many good jobs are there out there for you? None,” Duncan said.” That wasn't true 10 or 15 years ago."

Graduation rates increased by more than a percentage point in 38 states between 2009 and 2010, the study found. Only the District of Columbia saw its graduation rates decline between by greater than a percentage point during those years.

With reporting from The Associated Press.

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