NEWS RELEASES 2016-17 :: January 25, 2017

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North Carolina’s public high school dropout rate improved slightly in 2015-16, according to data compiled by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. As reported in the 2015-16 Consolidated Data Report, which will be presented to the State Board of Education Feb. 2, the state’s dropout rate ticked down to 2.29 percent from 2.39 percent the previous year. In 2015-16, 10,889 students dropped out, compared to 11,190 students the previous year.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said he was pleased the state’s dropout rate improved, continuing a long-term trend of gains. “Every initiative we pursue as a Board has the ultimate goal of graduating all students career and college ready. It is critical that we continue to make our public schools relevant to students so that they will see the value of staying the course and graduating with a high school diploma – an important predictor for future success.”

Except for the 2014-15 school year, when the high school dropout rate edged up by 0.11 percentage points, the state’s dropout rate has declined every year since 2006-07 and has improved by more than half since that year, when the rate was measured at 5.24 percent.

The annual dropout rate measures the number and percentage of students who drop out during a single school year. Some of these students may return to school the following year and complete high school while others may drop out multiple times.

Other key findings of the 2015-16 Consolidated Data Report show that:

  • Students dropped out most frequently at 10th grade (30.2 percent), followed by 9th grade (28.3 percent).
  • The number of high school students dropping out decreased at all grade levels. Dropout rates for Hispanic and Pacific Islander increased while all other racial subgroups decreased.
  • Males accounted for 61.6 percent of reported dropouts, which was down slightly from the 62 percent reported last year.
  • Attendance was again the reason most often cited for dropping out, accounting for 46.5 percent of all dropouts. Leaving to enroll in a community college came in second at 11.1 percent, which was down from 15.8 percent in 2014-15. That decrease is attributable in part to a policy change by the State Board in 2015 to exclude from dropout counts those students who leave high school to enroll in adult high school programs at community colleges. As a result, 307 students from 40 school districts were not included in the Enrollment in a Community College dropout count. If such students should drop out of the adult high school program, their former school district must count them in the next dropout count.

In considering the annual dropout rate, it is critical to note that this rate is not the same as the four-year cohort graduation rate. The cohort graduation rate follows a class of students, starting in ninth grade, and measures the percentage of students who graduate four years later. North Carolina reported a four-year cohort graduation rate for the class or 2016 of 85.9 percent, a record high for the state. Compared to the dropout rate, the four-year cohort graduation rate is considered a more comprehensive picture of students’ persistence and high school completion.

The full report including state, district and charter high school dropout counts and rates for 2015-16 is available online.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.