Local News

State Eyes Higher Dropout Age

Posted January 31, 2007

— North Carolina education leaders are looking at raising the legal age to leave high school as a way to curb a rising dropout rate.

The dropout rate in 2005-06 was 5.04 percent, up from 4.74 the previous year, according to an annual report presented Wednesday to the State Board of Education.

Four of every five dropouts occurred between the ages of 16 and 18, according to the report, prompting officials to discuss the idea of raising the legal dropout age from 16 to 18.

"We are sending students the wrong message when we tell them it's acceptable to drop out of school at 16," Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said in a statement. "At a minimum, our students need a high school diploma as a stepping stone to future success."

Still, Lee said he recognized other changes would still be needed to battle the dropout problem.

"We have to have some intervention to keep kids in school," he told WRAL. "They're not going to stay just because we revise the age."

Five of the largest school districts, including those in Wake and Cumberland counties, accounted for 56 percent of the 22,180 dropouts in the ninth through 12th grades, the report said. The number of dropouts is about 2,000 more than last year and is the highest since the 1999-2000 school year.

"Right now, we have 22,000-plus kids who have a different future than they had last year, and that's terrible," Board of Education member Jane Norwood said.

A 2006 study by Harvard University and the Urban Institute showed nearly one-third of the North Carolina students who started high school, didn't graduate on time. The national average was 69 percent.

Lee said he found the dropout results troubling, but said he expects the trend to improve in coming years as the state's efforts to improve its high schools take root.

"The board, the Department of Public Instruction and other organizations are working closely with local districts to reinvent high schools to make them more rigorous and relevant to today's students," he said in the statement. "The fact that we see a significant increase in students dropping out to enroll in community colleges shows that they understand education will be important to their future. Life is demanding in the 21st century, and we need to make sure students are ready to meet those challenges."

State law requires school officials to record the reason for a student's decision to drop out. In the past three years, the number of students choosing to leave high school to enroll in community college has risen from 7 percent of the total to 12.1 percent, according to the annual report.

A majority of dropouts continue to be related to attendance issues, the report said. Other reasons identified include students moving and academic problems.

Almost one-third of all dropouts occur during the ninth grade, with another quarter coming in 10th grade and 22.4 percent of students dropping out in 11th grade.

Boys drop out at more than twice the rate of girls, the report said. Blacks accounted for a disproportionate amount of the increase in the dropout count, with an 8.4 percent jump among black boys, the report said.

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  • All child molesters should die Feb 3, 2007

    DO NOT, ABSOLUTELY, DO NOT RAISE THE AGE TO 18! Sixteen is the age now, and sixteen should stay the age.

    Kids need to be able to make up their own minds, regarding their education, or lack thereof. Sixteen is certainly old enough to do just that!

    Quitting school is not the end of the world, and sometimes, that's exactly what a student NEEDS to do! There are ramifications for everything in life, but we don't know each and every students personal situation. One can still quit school, get their GED and certainly go to college.

    If they want to stay in school, great. If they don't, great. Sixteen is old enough to figure that out! You can't make someone go to school, not until age 18. That will only turn them against it.

  • macnlca Feb 1, 2007

    As an educated society we still don’t get. We are trying to fix the problem from the top. We need to start in pre-school. Our teachers need to take back their schools and parents need to back them up. Teachers and principles are handcuff in what they can and cannot do or say. Parents need to demand that their child get a good education and hold the school responsible. We need to get back to the basic, Reading, Writing, and Math. Lastly we need more men in the school system (black and white), not saying the women are not during a great job but I work with these teens and they have no respect for most women. That also mean PAY Raise.

  • nowon_yuno Feb 1, 2007

    Let them drop out on the stipulation they will have to go in the service on their 18th birthday. I know the military does not take high school drops outs, but that can be workd out I'm sure.

  • hogarth Feb 1, 2007

    nthomas42 said: "I dont understand how "home schooling" can be effective."

    It's really very simple: The parents work at it - you know, actually put some real effort into raising their own children. They also require that their children take an active role in their own education rather than sit and passively absorb stuff (maybe), which I also realise is a shocking concept to many folks.

    The evidence, despite your skepticism, is that it IS effective. It's depressing to see someone so devalue their own education and capability as to say 'I have a Master's degree but can't see how I coudl effectively educate my own children'. You may not WANT to, and you may not CHOOSE to, but for goodness sake, give yourself some credit - you COULD do it.

  • narck9 Feb 1, 2007

    I'm sure that raising the age limit to drop out will totally solve our drop out problem. If they want to leave. Let them. Life is full of decisions that we will either regret later or reap the benefits.

  • mistressofthedark06 Feb 1, 2007

    Last time I checked I did NOT say to lower the standards, If that was what I meant to say I would have out and right said it! What I did say was that the standards are too high for most students it seems. I do understand that they aren't for some, in fact I was one of them, I had no problem but I do know many did and still do, but unfortunately not all schools nor does the state seem to take that into consideration. There is something called no child left behind but frankly from what I have seen many children are being left behind, and many are dropping out because they feel the effects of it, not just because of pregnancy and other outside of school problems. Seems some would like to be narrow minded and only look at the kids that are making bad decisions(which i am sure you have skeletons just like everyone else in the world) and not looking at the WHOLE PICTURE! Everyone is different, everyone learns differently and everyone needs to be considered in order to find a good solution

  • superman Jan 31, 2007

    I dont understand how "home schooling" can be effective. I have a master's degee and it is very difficult to remember basic geometry or algebra or physics. How can the parent help them. For the most part student would be pretty much on their own to learn as best they can at home. Parents would have to take the same textbooks and do the lesson prior to their child so they would be able to help. You cant just open up a texbook to page 255 and know what to do if you havent started with page one.

  • DOG Jan 31, 2007

    mistress/ If we were to lower the standards, as you seem to be suggesting, my cat could graduate from high school. They were lowered so much, in the 60's and 70's, that we are just now catching up. We should not hold the majority back because of a few.

  • Tarheeljunior Jan 31, 2007

    As an education major and future North Carolina teacher, I am glad to see North Carolina revising the acceptability of drop outs. I went to high school in Wake County and I saw people drop out, not because they curriculum was too hard, but because they were pregnant, or their girlfriend was pregnant, or because they were so involved in outside trouble that school was just a nuisance. Yes, students get burned out if they are enrolled in a course load that is disproportionate to their abilities. However, at my high school as with many others, there was an excellent vocational program, as well as a college and community college prepatory pathway. They day we start consoling our children and telling them it is acceptable to drop out because they are "burned out" is the day we teach the next generation to throw in the towel "because life just got too hard."

  • choirgirl Jan 31, 2007

    The tests are a cause of exhaustion. I have a teenage son that couldn't TEST well in elementary school. He would get overwhelmed by the sheer number of the problems on the exam. He has always been an honor student though. Now that he has learned how to take and pass exams he barely cracks a book, still makes A's and B's, but writes like he's in middle school. I'm puzzled.