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NEWS RELEASES 2000-01 :: JANUARY 25, 2001


North Carolina's student dropout rate for the 1999-2000 school year was 4.34 percent per year in grades 7-12, a slight decrease from the rate in 1998-99, 4.6 percent. The Department of Public Instruction released these numbers, as well as school district figures, as part of the annual report on dropout data. This report will be presented to the State Board of Education at its February meeting, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, in Raleigh.

A total of 24,596 students dropped out of school in 1999-2000 as compared to 25,567 in the previous school year.

Local school districts and state education officials keep a close eye on the dropout rate, especially in light of increasing local and state standards for students and changes made two years ago in the definition of dropouts. In 1998-99, the first year of the new definition for dropouts, the rate actually increased to 4.6 percent per year from 3.61 in 1997-98. The latest figures show those rates moving back down again.

State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. said he was pleased to see the dropout rate beginning to decrease again. "I do not believe that higher standards necessarily means more dropouts. I am pleased to see that more young people are making the wise choice and staying in school. That is the best choice they can make to become successful adults later on."

State Superintendent Mike Ward congratulated local school districts and communities. "For many years, we have continued to spread the message that a high school diploma is a minimum standard for education. I believe that message is being taken to heart by our young people and by their families. At the same time, local school districts are very serious about intervention for students who are struggling in school. These efforts are improving academic success and encouraging more students to stay in school. We know there is still work to be done in this area, but the data are encouraging."

A student is counted as a dropout if he or she:

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

Exclusions are made for students who transferred to another public school district, private school, home school or state/district approved educational program; were temporarily absent due to suspension or illness; or died.

North Carolina uses the federal guidelines for counting public school dropouts. This 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.

North Carolina does calculate two rates, one for grades 7-12 (listed above), and one for grades 9-12. The 9-12 rate in 1999-2000 was 6.43 percent annually, representing a total of 23,597 students. The previous year's rate was 6.78 for the high school grades only.

Local school district dropout rates for 1998-99 and 1999-2000.

For additional information, please contact Charlotte Hughes, section chief, Effective Practices section, NC Department of Public Instruction, 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.