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NEWS RELEASES 2002-03 :: FEBRUARY 4, 2003


At the same time that North Carolina has increased its requirements for student promotion and graduation, the state's dropout rate continued to decrease for the third consecutive year. The rate for students in grades 7-12 decreased 8.8 percent in 2001-02 down to an annual rate of 3.52 percent. The rate for students in grades 9-12 decreased 8.2 percent to 5.25 percent annually.

In 2000-01, the rate for grades 7-12 was 3.86 percent while the rate for 9-12 was 5.72 percent. The 2001-02 rates represent 21,046 dropout events, or times when a student dropped out of school, for students in grades 7-12. For grades 9-12, there were 20,202 dropout events. These numbers may include duplications. For example, if a student drops out more than once in multiple school years, each instance is counted as a separate dropout event.

The Dropout Data Report, 2001-02, will be presented to the State Board of Education this week. Dropout data have been collected each year since 1988-89, although specific reporting methods changed in 1991 to conform with new federal guidelines and in 1999 because of changes in the state' s definition of a dropout.
State Board Chairman Phil Kirk noted that although the dropout rate is declining, the total numbers still indicate that, on average, 117 North Carolina students choose to drop out every school day. "Even though our numbers are improving, I still do not want to lose that many students every school day," Kirk said. "Our goal is for everyone to stay in school and graduate."

State Superintendent Mike Ward said that he congratulated local schools for their efforts to provide support for students at risk of dropping out. "Many of the students who decide to drop out are facing tremendous difficulties and pressures," Ward said. "We must continue to find ways to provide interventions that will help these young people stay in school and graduate. That is in their best interest for the long term and in the best interest of North Carolina." Ward, who was recently elected as President of the Council of Chief State School Officers, plans to focus the group's attention on the issue of dropouts during his term with an initiative called "Seeing it Through."

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

North Carolina's Compulsory Attendance Law requires every child between the ages of 7 and 16 to attend school. Students who leave school prior to graduating and enroll in a community college or GED program are counted as dropouts.

Statistically, males account for slightly more than half of the students who drop out of school. Minority ethnic groups are over-represented among students who drop out of school. American Indians are the most likely ethnic group to drop out of school, followed by Hispanic students, and black students. Most dropout events occur at the ninth grade.

Students who drop out of school do so for a variety of reasons, including attendance problems, academic problems and choosing to enroll in a community college program rather than a traditional high school program. Usually, however, for students choosing to drop out of school, there are many factors that play into their decision.

Local school district dropout rates are attached. For additional information, please contact Charlotte Hughes (919.807.3949)or Belinda Black (919.807.3951), Effective Practices Section of the Division of School Improvement, NC DPI.

2001-02 Dropout Data Report (pdf, 1.61mb)

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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.