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.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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