Tennessee nears national goal for graduation numbers

After the presentation of graduates and conferring of degrees, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student looks back at her loved ones during commencement inside of McKenzie Arena.

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee in 2013 ranked eighth nationally for its high school graduation rates. And the state isn't far from reaching the U.S. goal of 90 percent by 2020, according to a new report.

The report, "Building a Grad Nation," found 86.3 percent of Tennessee high school students graduated on time, meaning getting their diploma within four years. The national rate was 81.4 percent.

Iowa ranked No. 1 with an 89.7 percent graduation rate.

"Tennessee overall is doing extraordinarily well," said Jennifer DePaoli, a senior education adviser with Washington, D.C.-based Civic Enterprises and a co-author of the report, sponsored by several national organizations.

The state led the Southeast or came close to it in some subcategories such as on-time graduation rates for students who come from low-income backgrounds. Other categories include minorities and students with various disabilities.