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NEWS RELEASES 1999-00 :: FEBRUARY 1, 2000


The state dropout rate, as well as school district-by-district dropout rates, was released today by the Department of Public Instruction. The rates, calculated under new rules, which consider students to be dropouts when they leave high school for community college GED programs, show a one-point increase over the 1997-98 school year.

The dropout rate for students in grades seven through 12 was 4.6 percent in 1998-99. A total of 25,578 students dropped out last year in these grades. In the previous reporting year, the rate was 3.61 percent representing 19,541 students dropping out in 1997-98.

Local school districts and state education officials anticipated that dropout rates would increase in 1998-99 because of changes in the state's definition of dropouts. These changes, approved by the State Board of Education in August 1998, define students who leave high school for a community college GED, adult high school or other program as dropouts. In prior years, these students were not counted as high school dropouts unless they also left the community college program. The changes were made to more closely align North Carolina's method of calculating dropout rates with the method used by other states.

State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. said that he was not surprised at the change in the dropout numbers. "We knew when we changed the policy that this would likely change North Carolina's dropout figures. More important to me and to other Board members is that we have a clear picture of how many students leave high school each year without graduating. The community college GED or adult high school program was never intended to replace four years of high school courses. We want to send a clear message that a high school diploma is an important goal and cannot be achieved through shortcuts."

This year, only one dropout rate is being released. In the past, North Carolina released a count done by federal guidelines and an unduplicated count. The count done according to federal guidelines results in some duplication. For example, a student who drops out of high school, returns to school and drops out a second time in a subsequent year is counted twice. This is the method used to calculate the rate now, both the rate for grades seven through 12 and the rate for high school only, grades nine through 12.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said that he and Department of Public Instruction staff were very concerned about the number of students who drop out of high school. "The new student accountability standards go into effect next year and are designed to help address the issue of dropouts. By ensuring that students are well prepared for the next grade level, we can diminish the number of students who drop out of high school. We know that many students who drop out are not well prepared to be successful at the high school level, and we plan to provide rigorous intervention for these young people."

The formal definition of a dropout in North Carolina is an individual who:

  • was enrolled in school at some time during the reporting year;
  • was not enrolled on the 20th day of the current school year;
  • has not graduated from high school or completed a state or district approved educational program; and does not meet any of the following reporting


  1. transferred to another public school district, private school, home school or state/district approved educational program,
  2. temporarily absent due to suspension or illness, or
  3. death.

See 1998-99 Dropout data for Grades 7-12 and 9-12 in table layout.

For more information, contact Dr. Elsie Leak, director, School Improvement, Department of Public Instruction, 919.807.3911 or Charlotte Hughes, section chief, 919.807.3949.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.