Good news: The graduation gap between students based on race is shrinking.

Oct. 17, 2016, was a great day at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.

First of all, its students and staff have a huge reason to pat themselves on the back: They boast a graduation rate of 100% — not an easy feat for any school.

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.


Secondly, that figure impressed President Barack Obama so much, it was one reason he decided to swing by the school that Monday morning.

"It's been a while since I did math," he said during a speech addressing students and staff. "But 100% is good. You can't do better than that."

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

The president wasn't there just to congratulate Banneker students, though. There were record graduation rates across the U.S. last year.

In a speech addressing the country, the president applauded the record-high number of high schoolers snatching up diplomas from coast-to-coast.

Last year, 83.2% of American high schoolers earned their diploma within four years — the highest rate on record. That number marks steady improvements across the board since the 2010-2011 school year, when a new standardized way of measurement was implemented nationwide.

GIF via The White House.

What's particularly great, though, is that the gains were broad and felt across all racial minority groups as well as low-income students and students with disabilities.

"We’ve made real progress," Obama said at Banneker. "More African-American and Latino students are graduating than ever before.”

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

There hasn't been a single vital factor in ensuring more students get through  school; it's been more about multiple influencers working together.

The president touted a variety of reasons for the progress, including investments in early education, prioritizing access to high-speed internet in libraries and classrooms, and empowering girls and students of color to dream big by zeroing in on the obstacles they face — especially when it comes to math and science fields.

Obama seemed pretty pleased with the commitment America's high schoolers have made to finishing school.

This news doesn't mean we can sit back, relax, and watch that record high inch closer to 100%. There are still problems within the education system that need addressing.

Although graduation rates have improved across the board, significant inequities — what Obama dubbed the "achievement gap" — remain between certain groups.

Last year, 75% of black students, 78% of Hispanic students, and 71.6% of American Indian/Alaska Native students graduated from high school in four years — promising figures reflecting progress but still significantly lower than the 87.6% of white students and 90.2% of Asian/Pacific Islander students who did the same.

The encouraging news, however, is that those achievement gaps are narrowing.

By no means do graduation rates say it all when it comes to the state of public education, though. The zip code you live in is far too indicative of the quality of education your child can expect to receive. Increasing reliance on standardized testing for funding has gutted the art programs and creative curriculums that can be just as important for learning as algebra or biology. And public school teachers are still paid far too little, oftentimes having to dish out their own funds to provide basic learning tools for their classrooms.

Still, that 83.2% figure reflects an increasing number of teenagers who understand getting an education is the best way to prepare for adulthood.

Numbers aside, these improvements matter because they mean better, brighter futures for our youth.

Obama pointed out that graduating isn't just about the pride you get rocking a cap and gown in front of loved ones (although that's a nice reward); it's about opening doors to make sure you're prepared to enter a competitive 21st-century workforce.

"That’s what we want all of America to believe — in every kid," Obama said. "There’s magic in each and every one of you. And we just have to help you unleash it and nurture it and it realize it."

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

Watch Obama's speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School below.

He starts speaking at about 28:15.

If you've never seen a Maori haka performed, you're missing out.

The Maori are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, and their language and customs are an integral part of the island nation. One of the most recognizable Maori traditions outside of New Zealand is the haka, a ceremonial dance or challenge usually performed in a group. The haka represents the pride, strength, and unity of a tribe and is characterized by foot-stamping, body slapping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic chanting.

Haka is performed at weddings as a sign of reverence and respect for the bride and groom and are also frequently seen before sports competitions, such as rugby matches.

Here's an example of a rugby haka:

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

Keep Reading Show less
via Good Morning America

Anyone who's an educator knows that teaching is about a lot more than a paycheck. "Teaching is not a job, but a way of life, a lens by which I see the world, and I can't imagine a life that did not include the ups and downs of changing and being changed by other people," Amber Chandler writes in Education Week.

So it's no surprise that Kelly Klein, 54, who's taught at Falcon Heights Elementary in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, for the past 32 years still teaches her kindergarten class even as she is being treated for stage-3 ovarian cancer.

Her class is learning remotely due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, so she is able to continue doing what she loves from her computer at M Health Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, even while undergoing chemotherapy.

Keep Reading Show less