To access Quick Links, visit our text-only version.

. Public Schools of North Carolina . . State Board of Education . . Department Of Public Instruction .


NEWS RELEASES 2007-08 :: FEBRUARY 7, 2008


A total of 23,550 students - or 5.24 percent of the students in grades nine through 12 - dropped out of school in the 2006-07 school year, according to the "Annual Dropout Event Report for School Year 2006-07" today presented to the State Board of Education. The dropout rate in 2005-06 was 5.04 percent or 22,180 students.

Forty-three percent of North Carolina's 115 school districts reported a decrease in dropout events with Washington, Clay and Camden counties showing the largest rate decreases - approximately 50 percent decreases in each case. Large increases in a handful of school districts pushed up the state average.

State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said he was deeply concerned about the number of students dropping out of school. "Students drop out of school for many reasons, including excessive absences, family concerns, academic problems or the belief that they can finish a high school credential more quickly through a GED program, but North Carolinians need to make sure these young people realize how tough it can be for them once they bypass their high school diploma. High school graduation today is a bare minimum for economic survival, and we need to support all students so that they graduate from high school."

State Board of Education members have set as their guiding mission that every public school student will graduate from high school, globally competitive for work and postsecondary education and prepared for life in the 21st century.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said that the dropout rate is an indicator that a number of strategies must be explored to solve the dropout problem. "Washington, Clay and Camden County school leaders have shown us you can make a positive difference in keeping students in school," she said. "It's imperative that we look closely at what these and other districts are doing to see if those efforts can be duplicated in other parts of the state." Atkinson reiterated the value of timely academic support for struggling students and close attention to student needs during transition years. "It's easy to lose hope when you feel you will never catch up. We must ensure that our students never lose hope," she said.

Efforts to Improve High Schools

The issue of high school dropouts has prompted significant work recently to improve middle and high schools so that students are better engaged and supported in their learning. Specific efforts expected to affect the dropout rate include:
  • Literacy Coaches. The 2007 session of the General Assembly approved 100 additional literacy coaches for middle schools, increasing the total number to 200.
  • Learn and Earn Early College High Schools. By the end of 2008, 76 Learn and Earn Early College high schools should be operational or in planning across the state. These schools provide students, particularly non-traditional college students or students who could be first-generation college students, the opportunity to earn an Associate's Degree at no cost while still under the supervision and support of high school faculties. Early results of these schools are promising. For 2005-06, the 12 Learn and Earn high schools in operation that year had a combined ninth grade promotion rate of 96 percent, while the statewide average promotion rate for that grade was 85 percent. Five of the Learn and Earn high schools promoted 100 percent of their ninth graders.
  • Dropout Prevention Grants. The Joint Legislative Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation awarded 60 groups (school systems, schools, agencies and nonprofits) across the state grants totaling $7 million to help them in their efforts to reduce drop outs. The Commission will evaluate the programs and decide whether expanding or replicating them will improve graduation rates in the state.
  • High School Transformation. Two years ago, the Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education began serious work in partnership with the state's chronically low-performing high schools to provide the support they need for systemic change and improvement. NCDPI now has 35 schools in High School Turnaround and 54 schools in High School Turnaround Assessment, the first step toward improving each school.
  • North Carolina Virtual Public School. The goal of the North Carolina Virtual Public School is to provide students with courses that are unavailable to them at their traditional schools or scheduled at times that students are not able to access traditional brick-and-mortar courses.
  • Learn and Earn Online. Learn and Earn Online enables students to register and take online courses through any community college or through the University of North Carolina at Greensboro iSchool at no cost to the student or their family.
  • EARN Scholarships. The EARN Scholarship provides incentives for students and enables Early College high school students who are at or below 200 percent of the poverty level and who complete an Associate's Degree with an acceptable grade point average, to qualify to earn their baccalaureate degree debt-free at one of North Carolina's public universities.

Other Report Findings

Data analysis found that almost one-third (32 percent) of all dropout events continue to occur during the ninth grade year with 25 percent of dropouts leaving in 10th grade and 22 percent of them dropping out in 11th grade. Dropout rates increase in frequency as students reach 16 years of age. Seventy-eight percent of dropout events occurred between the ages of 16 and 18.

Although the dropout rates for Black (6.16 percent), Multiracial (5.23 percent) and White (4.52 percent) students increased in 2006-07, the dropout rate for American Indian students (7.71 percent) fell to its lowest level in the last four years. The dropout rate for Asian students declined (2.41 percent). The dropout rate for Hispanic students (7.66 percent) also declined - despite a large increase in dropout events. This is attributed to a rapidly increasing Hispanic student population.

The 2006-07 school year also saw a slight decrease (59.4 percent from 59.9 percent) in the number of male students dropping out although they continue to be much more likely to drop out than females.

State law requires school officials to record the reason for a student's decision to drop out of school. In 2006-07, 51 percent of the dropout events listed attendance issues as the reason for the student's decision to drop out. Although schools are only to use this reason code for students who drop out due to excessive absences that caused the student to become ineligible or in jeopardy of becoming ineligible to receive course credits, there are concerns that this code also is used to cover other reasons that may be uncertain or unknown. There will be an "unknown" code added to the 2007-08 report, which should address this issue. Other common reasons reported by schools include enrollment in a community college (13.6 percent) followed by moved, school status unknown (10.6 percent) and academic problems (7.1 percent).

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.

North Carolina also collects a four-year cohort graduation rate each year. This rate indicates the percentage of first-time ninth graders who graduated from high school four years later.

The complete dropout report and district level numbers are available online 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.