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Lawmakers want more to keep dropout rate on the decline

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.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers said Tuesday they are pleased to see the state's dropout rate decline but that more still needs to be done to keep students in school.

The state Board of Education reported earlier this month that about 1,100 fewer high school students withdrew from school during the 2007-08 school year – just under 5 percent, compared with 5.2 percent the previous year.

It was the first decline in three years.

But House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said Tuesday that, on average, 30 percent of high school students still drop out. Lawmakers need to make sure they are listening to educators about what they need to help students stay in school, he said.

Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, also said there is a need to implement recovery programs for students who drop out.

Education officials point to former Gov. Mike Easley's Learn and Earn and early-college programs for the decline. The programs allow high school students to get an associate degree or college credit while obtaining their high school diploma.

Alternative learning options for suspended students and assistance for those not performing well also have helped, along with a state law that revokes students' driver's licenses if they drop out before turning 18, the board of education said.

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