NC High School Dropout Rate Increasing
Special Report - February 12, 2008
North Carolina experienced a 6.2 percent increase in the number of high school dropouts in the 2006-07 school year, according to a new report presented to the State Board of Education on February 7. The report shows that a total of 23,550 students in grades 9-12 dropped out of school in 2006-07, compared to 22,180 students the previous year. That is the highest number of high school dropouts in seven years, when 23,597 dropouts were reported to the State in 1999-00. The dropout rate increased to 5.24 percent in 2006-07 from 5.04 percent in 2005-06.
According to the report, Black and Hispanic students “accounted for a disproportionate amount of the increase in the dropout count,” although it notes a slight decline in the dropout rate for Hispanic students. The report states that nearly one-third of students drop out during the 9th grade, 25 percent drop out during 10th grade, and 22 percent dropout in 11th grade. Most students cited “attendance issues” as their reason for dropping out of school. While the state’s overall dropout rate increased in 2006-07, the report points out that 49 of the 115 school districts in North Carolina reported decreases in their number of dropouts. Washington, Clay and Camden Counties experienced the largest decrease.
“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,” said State Board of Education Chairman, Howard Lee, in a press release. “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.”
A 2007 study by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation found that North Carolina’s high dropout rate costs the state $169 million annually in lost tax revenue, lower earning power and increased public assistance expenses. The study, which was commissioned by Parents for Education Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), found that only 11 states have a larger percentage than North Carolina of adults lacking a high school education. It also noted that high school dropouts earn an average of $10,400 less than graduates, are twice as likely to be unemployed, and face “a much greater risk” of relying on public assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps. According to the PEFNC report, implementing a school choice program in North Carolina could help decrease the state’s high school dropout rates by providing parents with more options and giving more at-risk students a chance to attend private schools.
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