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NEWS RELEASES 2006-07 :: JANUARY 31, 2007


North Carolina's dropout rate increased slightly in 2005-06 and is now 5.04 percent, an increase of 6.33 percent according to the Annual Dropout Event Report for School Year 2005-06 presented to the State Board of Education today. The dropout rate in 2004-05 was 4.74 percent.

Many parts of the state experienced decreases in dropout events with 46 of the 115 local districts reporting decreases. Five of the largest school districts account for a disproportionate amount of the increase. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Cumberland and Winston-Salem/Forysth schools accounted for 56 percent of the increase in the grade 9-12 dropout events. Overall, the state recorded 22,180 dropout events in grades nine through 12.

State law requires school officials to record the reason for a student's decision to drop out of school. Recently, there has been a rapid increase in the number of students who report they are dropping out of high school to enroll in a community college. In 2003-04, 7 percent of dropouts reported community college enrollment as the reason; in 2004-05, the percentage was 9.6. In 2005-06, 12.1 percent or 2,692 students gave community college enrollment as the reason for dropping out. A majority of dropout events continue to be related to attendance issues. Other reasons identified include students moving with school status unknown (9.5 percent) and academic problems (6.5 percent).

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee found the results troubling but reiterated that he fully expects that trend to improve in coming years as the state's efforts to improve its high schools take root. "The Board, the Department of Public Instruction and other organizations are working closely with local districts to reinvent high schools to make them more rigorous and relevant to today's students. The fact that we see a significant increase in students dropping out to enroll in community colleges shows that they understand education will be important to their future. Life is demanding in the 21 st century, and we need to make sure students are ready to meet those challenges," he said.

Lee added that the Board is still very interested in increasing the legal dropout age. "We are sending students the wrong message when we tell them it's acceptable to drop out of school at 16. At a minimum our students need a high school diploma as a stepping stone to future success." Currently, state law requires students to attend school between the ages of 7 and 16, but the State Board of Education is seeking legislation to change the age requirement to 18.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson echoed Chairman Lee's expectations that high schools are on the right track to improve. "I've been to a number of high schools that are using smaller learning communities, and I'm seeing a lot of excitement among students and educators. That is how we drive home the importance of staying in school and the connection between the courses students take and the demands of life once they graduate." Atkinson went on to say that academic support for struggling students and close attention to student needs during transition years play major roles in keeping students in school.

Currently, 58 North Carolina high schools are involved in Learn and Earn and the New Schools Project, formal efforts to significantly reform high school operations. More than 100 schools are expected to be in some phase of program development by 2008. These efforts, as well as others across the state, are helping students access rigorous curricula, participate in smaller learning communities and receive the support they need to be successful in high school.

Data analysis found that almost one-third (32.7 percent) of all dropout events continue to occur during the ninth grade year with 25.7 percent of students dropping out in 10th grade and 22.4 percent of students dropping out in 11th grade. Dropout rates increase in frequency as students reach 16 years of age. Seventy-nine percent of dropout events occurred between the ages of 16 and 18.

The 2005-06 school year also saw an increase in the number of male students dropping out with over twice as many leaving school as opposed to female students. Black males accounted for a disproportionate amount of the increase in the dropout count. While the dropout rates for Hispanic and American Indian students remain high, the rate for American Indian students decreased. The rate for Hispanic students continued to rise.

Dropout data have been collected each year since 1988-89, although specific reporting methods changed in 1991 to conform to new federal guidelines and in 1999 because of changes in the state's definition of a dropout.

For the annual dropout rate calculation, a dropout is defined as a student who:

  • was enrolled in school at some time during the previous school year, which is the reporting year;
  • was not enrolled on Day 20 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 exclusions:
    • transferred to another public school district, private school, home school or state/district approved educational program;
    • temporarily absent due to suspension or school-approved illness; or
    • death.

The complete dropout report is available at . For more information, please contact the NCDPI's Communications division at 919/807-3450.

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.