An increasing number of students with disabilities are graduating high school, federal officials say, though they still receive diplomas at far lower rates than other students.

The graduation rate for students with disabilities reached nearly 62 percent during the 2012-2013 school year, representing a rise of almost 3 percent compared to two years earlier.

The figures released Monday from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics come a month after federal officials said the nation’s overall high school graduation rate reached a record-high of 81 percent in 2012-2013.

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Despite the gains, however, graduation rates for students with disabilities varied tremendously from one state to the next. Mississippi reported a low of 22.5 percent while Arkansas topped the list with over 80 percent of students with disabilities receiving diplomas.

The data accounts for the number of students nationwide who obtained a high school diploma within four years. Students who completed an individualized education program but did not earn a traditional diploma and those who were held back a grade were not included.

In addition to students with disabilities, the Education Department data also pointed to lower graduation rates among blacks and Hispanics, those from low-income households and students with limited English proficiency.

“While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student — no matter their zip code — for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama emphasized the need for continued investment in education in order to see further improvements.

“Making sure that we’ve got high standards and high expectations for all our kids, and making sure that we are providing the resources to teachers and principals to meet those high standards. That’s going to be important,” Obama said in remarks following a meeting with school leaders at the White House on Monday. “Making sure that we are investing in special education and English learning for large portions of our student population that may need extra help. That’s going to be critically important.”

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