Report: Dropouts down, crime up in NC schools

Posted March 3, 2011 1:40 p.m. EST
Updated March 3, 2011 2:01 p.m. EST

— The number of dropouts from North Carolina schools hit a record low last year, and school suspensions and expulsions also declined, officials said Thursday.

Reports of crime and violence in public schools statewide were up, however, officials said.

The annual dropout rate fell from 4.27 percent of high school students in 2008-09 to 3.75 percent last year, which state education officials said was the lowest rate ever recorded.

"Every student who stays in school to graduate is one more student who leaves high school college or career ready,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said in a statement.

Last year, 16,804 high school students left school before graduating. Officials said that is the fewest since exemptions for students leaving for community college were disallowed beginning in the late 1990s.

All ethnic groups now have dropout rates of less than 5 percent, but rates among most minorities continue to be far above those of whites, according to a state report.

In Wake County, 1,494 students dropped out last year, up from 1,430 the year before. Durham County reported the same number of dropouts, 444, both years. The number of dropouts in Cumberland County went from 638 in 2008-09 to 518 last year, while Johnston County's numbers fell from 411 to 340.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools continues to have one of the lowest dropout rates statewide, at 0.95 percent, or 35 students.

Suspensions also declined last year, according to a state report. Short-term suspensions – those less that 10 days – dropped by 5.5 percent, while long-term suspensions were down 6.2 percent.

About one of every six North Carolina high school students was suspended last year.

School expulsions statewide dropped from 116 in 2008-09 to 88 last year, a state report shows. As with dropouts, ninth-graders accounted for the largest number of students expelled.

Meanwhile, the rate of acts of crime and violence in schools statewide increased by 5 percent last year, with 11,608 acts reported. Possession of a controlled substance at school, possession of a weapon and possession of alcohol accounted for more than 9,600 of those reports.