RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina is finding out whether high school graduation rates can continue the improvement of recent years.

State school officials on Thursday are releasing data describing how many students are earning diplomas in four years. The report last year showed high school graduation rates for the first time topped 80 percent, up from 68 percent in 2006.

The improving graduation rate immediately became a question of whether North Carolina’s schools were doing better despite recession-era funding cuts that have forced schools to hire fewer teachers even as enrollments increased.

About 1.5 million students attend the state’s public schools.