WOODLAND — More than eight in 10 public high school students in the class of 2016 graduated on time, California's top education official announced Tuesday.

Just over 83 percent of the students finished in four years, up about 1 percentage point from the prior year to reach a new high, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.

Graduation rates have risen for seven consecutive years, with the biggest increases among African-American and Latino students as well as English learners, according to data from the California Department of Education. However, graduation rates for those groups still lag behind those for white and Asian students.

"That's extremely positive to see that growth," Torlakson told media gathered at Woodland High School, east of Sacramento. "We've done a lot to concentrate resources where needs are greatest."

Torlakson attributed the improvements in large part to higher funding for California public schools that has reduced class sizes and expanded arts and science education.

He pointed to Woodland High as a model where he said career readiness programs have helped the school reach a graduation rate of 94 percent.

The federal Education Department is auditing the accuracy of the California Department of Education's graduation rate. But Torlakson said he believes the department's method of calculating graduation rate is accurate and indicative of rising student success. He said other indicators of student success, such as AP test scores, also show California students are doing well.

"I'm totally confident that the audit will find that we're doing everything right and reporting the data consistently over the years," Torlakson told the Associated Press.