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Fewer students dropping out in N.C.

Posted February 5, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— About 5 percent of North Carolina high school students dropped out of school last year, marking the first decrease in the state dropout rate in three years, state officials said Thursday.

Overall, 22,434 out of approximately 450,000 North Carolina high school students dropped out of school in the 2007-08 academic year. In the previous year, 23,550 students had left school before graduating.

High school class generic Schools innovate to keep students in class

"Our schools are working harder to make sure they're giving our students hope," Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said. "We just have to make sure that, beyond that core of academic subjects, we have to give our students options."

Atkinson cited programs like ninth-grade transition programs, early college initiatives and North Carolina's Learn and Earn program, where high school students can earn college credit online, for keeping students in school.

East Wake High School combines four specialty schools in one so students can pursue studies in health sciences, global studies, technology or engineering. The smaller programs ensure students don't get lost in the shuffle, Principal Sebastian Shipp said.

"We are creating a more personalized experience for each one, making sure they are connected to an adult on campus," Shipp said.

"(Keeping students in school) really is about making what is happening at school relevant to what students want to pursue after high school," he said. "(Students will stay in school if) we keep offering different programs and offering different ways that other students can make those connections."

Cutting the dropout rate should lead to increases over the next few years in the state's graduation rate, which measures the number of students who get their high school diploma four years after entering ninth grade, Atkinson said. The four-year graduation rate in 2007-08 was 70.3 percent.

Dropout rates fell in 66 of the state's 115 school districts.

In Wake County, 42 more students dropped out last year than in 2006-07, but the district's growth meant the rate stayed at about 4.2 percent. Durham County's dropout rate fell from 4.9 to 4.2 percent, while Johnston County's fell from 5.4 to 4.9 percent and Chatham County's dropped from 4.6 to 3.9 percent.

The dropout rate in Chapel Hill-Carrboro jumped from 1.1 to 1.5 percent – though it remains the lowest rate in North Carolina – while surrounding Orange County saw its rate rise from 4.3 to 4.6 percent. Cumberland County's rate remained at about 3.6 percent.

Students report a variety of reasons for dropping out, but attendance is the most-reported reason, at 48 percent, followed by enrollment in a community college program, at 16 percent, and academic problems at 7.2 percent.

Every ethnic group except for multiracial students reported lower dropout rates last year. The rates for American Indian and Hispanic students fell from about 7.7 percent to less than 7 percent, but American Indians, Hispanics and blacks continue to exceed the statewide average for dropouts.

Three-fifths of dropouts are boys, and students most frequently drop out in ninth or 10th grades.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger called the dropout report "terrible news."

"No one should be patting themselves on the back when one in three of North Carolina's public school students don't graduate," said Berger, a Rockingham County Republican. "Unfortunately, Democrats and their appointees at the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction continue to obscure the full extent of the problem by repeatedly using the more benign-sounding one-year drop out number."

The state report recommended requiring local school boards to set annual graduation benchmarks and urged the boards to revise policies that might be unintentionally pushing students out of school.


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  • unc70 Feb 5, 2009

    The definition of "dropout" as used/required in this report is misleading in many ways. The "dropouts" include those went the GED route (includes vocational training at CC, early college, etc.), those who received a Certificate instead of a Diploma (often because of disabilities -- for example, a high-function autistic), those who take an extra year to graduate, those who transfer to another school unless that school requests a copy of the student's academic record, and anyone else that cannot be traced.

    The "cohort" method of tracking students is somewhat better at understanding what is really happening, but it still has problems showing what is really happening. NC is a leader is its efforts to assess what is happening with education at all levels; otherwise, no one can make an "informed" decision.

    When I was in high school in the 60's, many students never made it to 9th grade, those with disabilities were hidden away or instituionalized, and dropping out to work or farm or enter

  • imcrazyy Feb 5, 2009

    I am currently a Student at Leesville Road High School. And I would say to not count on this drop-out rate to keep going down with the new graduation project and requirements. The project is so unorganized that some students just don't know what to do. Other people just don't have the resources. If you want to do a project on something like say, Professional Sports. You actually are required to go out and find a professional athlete that is willing to help you. It is my opinion that these new graduation requirements being added to the class of '09 and all classes afterward will further hinder the number of students that graduate from going up and in the long run will cause the drop-out rate to increase not decrease which is goal of these plans.

  • -Enter Screen Name- Feb 5, 2009


    Well said. A few other Western countries do split their students into 2-3 different tracts. Generally the two lower tracts are for vocational students (one being for people that will be laborers, the next being for tradesmen/women that are skilled). The next tract is for University bound students.

    It would be nice if we could do this. The only problem is our school system's pandering to the slower students. We'd have parents complaining about their kids being in the "slower" school, the students would get moved, and we'd be right back in the current situation.

    Also, I agree with other people's statements - it would be nice to know how many in the dropout numbers continued education versus didn't. My wife is technically a NC high school dropout, but only because she was ahead of everyone else. The next school year she went to Meredith and now has 2 bachelors. I possibly could have been a dropout, too, but was accepted into NCSSM, which actually challenged me.

  • thepeopleschamp Feb 5, 2009

    The truth is there is nothing wrong with a little bit of a drop out rate. I've seen what is in some of our high schools. It is not a sad day when a gang memeber, a thief, or a violent student quits school and the remaining students (and teachers) at that schoool are no longer preyed upon.

  • NCworkingwoman Feb 5, 2009

    "Perhaps more trade-school type programs should be offered. "

    "But that does not get you a career. Trade school programs are OK, but more and more companies want a bachelors at minimum before hiring."

    Yes I do realize this. But there are some people, for what ever reason, that are not college material. Personally, I would rather see them work ANY kind of job, vs. ending up on public assistance.

    There will be enough people who have the drive to get through college and go on to have a career.

    But some people (for whatever reason) just don't have the drive or ability to make it to college.

    I would rather pay for job training for high school students that are on the verge of dropping out, than public assistance which is where some of them will end up, especially if they have no skills at all.

  • kimberly1110 Feb 5, 2009

    If you have a problem with the school system, then don't blame the county. They follow the rules and standard course of study that NCDPI set up. I've never met a kid who was homeschooled like you are describing. My cousin was pulled out of PRIVATE school because he is severly overweight and was being bullied for it. And no, my aunt and uncle are not idiots. As a former teacher it is humiliating to have kids pulled out because mommie and daddie don't think you're good enough to teach their precious child. Also attending college, I had a lot of former homeschoolers in many of my classes and noticed they had poor socialization schools. Until I meet one of these so called spectaular kids, I will not change my opinion.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 5, 2009

    Kal -

    They are called Magnet schools, and for the most part, the school board busses the kids clear across the county to get there, rather than have a school in each district.

    The School Board has done a very poor job at planning these things out.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 5, 2009

    "Perhaps more trade-school type programs should be offered. "

    But that does not get you a career. Trade school programs are OK, but more and more companies want a bachelors at minimum before hiring.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 5, 2009

    "The schools systems do nothing that would encourage a student to drop out."

    And they don't do anything to encourage the student to stay either.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 5, 2009

    "Every single homeschooled person I have met has no socilization skills whatsoever. My cousin is homeschooled and while he may be in the 9th grade, he has a 5th grade education."

    That is why there is Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, 4H and other organizations that allow them to gain socialization skills. The five homeschooled kids that I have - have no problem with socialization.

    Ok, so, you are blaming every home school on this planet for the level of learning of your cousin. Have they taken him to see if he is bi-polar, or have a learning disability? Or were the people who were homeschooling him have a 5th grade education and could not go a step further?