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Latest Figures Show N.C. Near Bottom In Educational Achievement

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WASHINGTON — Census Bureau

figures show that while more U.S. residents than before have high-school and college diplomas, North Carolina ranks low in the two measures of educational achievement.

State leaders are especially concerned with the dropout rate. Twenty students out of 100 do not get their high-school diploma.

The city of Raleigh has the second-highest percentage of residents with a college degree in the country. But if you look at the state, North Carolina has one of the lowest percentages of adults with a high-school diploma.

"That's a statistic that we have to do something about," Superintendent Mike Ward said.

Ward said there is graduation-rate improvement, but the state is made up of educational haves and have-nots.

"There's a difference between the high-wealth counties and the low-wealth counties," Ward said. "There absolutely is."

Gov. Mike Easley said North Carolina has a high rate of students who further their education if they do get that high-school diploma. So he is pushing the community-college network that is all over the state.

"We can work out through our community-college system a program for any industry, and we're doing that," Easley said.

Ward said he hopes state lawmakers will approve $22 million for school districts that have high poverty and a high teacher turnover rate.

State breakdowns of the two measures of educational achievement showed that North Carolina ranked near the bottom in spite of decades of efforts to boost the state's economy with knowledge-intensive industries like biotechnology and information technology.

High-school graduates made up 81 percent of North Carolina's over-25 population. State residents with a bachelor's degree or higher make up nearly 24 percent of the population.

Nationally, among those 25 and older last year, more than 84 percent had graduated from high school. That's up slightly from the previous year.

The share of people with at least a bachelor's degree from college also inched up to slightly more than 27 percent.

The states with the highest high-school graduation rates were New Hampshire, Minnesota and Wyoming, all around 92 percent.

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