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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: JANUARY 10, 2002


The number of North Carolina students dropping out of school for 2000-01 in grades 7 - 12 decreased 9 percent from the previous year to 22,365. In 1999-2000, the number of students dropping out was 24,585.

The Department of Public Instruction released these numbers, as well as the data for local school systems, in its annual report on dropouts.

While acknowledging the improved efforts of schools, State Superintendent Mike Ward said North Carolina's historically high dropout rate continues to be unacceptable. That is one of the key reasons the state has boosted accountability requirements to ensure that there is intervention for every child who needs help and championed funding for at-risk students. Also, as of the 2000-01 school year, high schools are now being held accountable for dropout rates as a part of the ABCs accountability model for these schools.

Ward said, "Individual education plans for all students who are at-risk of not meeting standards, funds from the legislature for at-risk students and a move to improve secondary schools all are a part of our efforts to decrease the dropout rate. We have to reach students early to determine why they're not being successful in school before they choose to drop out."

Phil Kirk, chairman of the State Board of Education, said the dropout problem also is a community issue. "A high school education is the starting point in today's economy. We must have high expectations for all students. This report refutes reports that higher standards result in more dropouts. Students will rise to higher expectations. We need parents, business leaders, and educators emphasizing to students that they simply must get their high school diploma first and then continue their learning for many of the jobs of today and tomorrow."

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 certain exclusions. Students are excluded from the dropout counts if they 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 calculates two rates, one for grades 7-12, and one for grades 9-12. The 9-12 rate in 2000-01 was 5.71 percent, representing a total of 21,368 students. The previous year's rate was 6.42 (23,587) for grades 9-12.

There are any numbers of reasons that students drop out, ranging from poor academic performance to family problems. Local media may wish to talk with local school officials regarding some of the reasons students give for dropping out.

See the charts for rates for local school systems.

For additional information, contact Charlotte Hughes or Gladys Logan, Effective Practices Section of the Division of School Improvement, at 919.807.3952.

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.