Progress is being made on improving Indiana's high school graduation rate.

The state's graduation rate has climbed from 77 percent to more than 88 percent in less than a decade.

Still, there are significant gaps marked by race and income. Those gaps were pointed out in a story written by Maureen Hayden, the statehouse bureau chief for Community Newspaper Holdings.

Last week, the Indiana Department of Education released the graduation rates for all Indiana public and charter high schools for the 2011-12 school year. Statewide, the graduation rate is slightly over 88 percent, up from just less than 87 percent for the 2010-11 school year. Five years ago, the high school graduation rate was just less than 78 percent.

Locally, both Madison and Southwestern showed increases in graduation rates, but Southwestern still falls significantly below the statewide average.

Madison had a graduation rate of 89.7 percent in 2012. That was up from 76.7 percent in 2009.

Southwestern's graduation rate in 2012 was 78 percent. That's up from 73.9 percent in 2009.

The numbers show that students who are black, Hispanic or low-income still have lower graduation rates than students who are white or more affluent. Just more than 90 percent of white students graduated on-time from Indiana high schools last year, while 77 percent of black students and 84 percent of Hispanic students did.

Of the 63,861 students who graduated from high school in the 2011-12 school year, almost 9 percent - or 5,723 students - were granted waivers so they could graduate. But in some schools, the percent reached as high as 30 percent.

Beyond helping a young person succeed in life, high school graduation rates play a critical role in how schools and school districts are evaluated by the state under its A-to-F grading system put into place in 2011.

The state gives every school and every school district a letter grade based on several metrics, including test scores and graduation rates. Public schools with low grades run the risk of being taken over by the state, while public schools with high grades are positioned to get more state funding.

There is work to be done on the state and local levels. While a 100 percent graduation rate isn't likely, it certainly is a goal to reach for.