Last school year, 3.01 percent of high school students dropped out of school, according to the 2011-12 Consolidated Data Report presented recently to State Board of Education members. This rate represents a .42 percentage point decrease from the previous year’s rate of 3.43 percent and another record low.
“High school students understand the connection between a diploma and the ability to reach their goals,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said.
“Principals, teachers and support staff should be praised for their efforts to ensure that students are staying on track to complete their education and achieve success after graduation,” she said.
The grade 7-13 Dropout Counts and Rates for Richmond County Schools shows a 2011-12 dropout rate of 2.52 percent, a decline from the district’s 2010-11 rate of 2.96 percent.
The improved rate is due to a focus on student attendance, said Richmond County Schools Superintendent George Norris.
“We are really pleased that our dropout rate has improved,” Norris said. “For several years we have put emphasis on student attendance and reduced student suspensions, thereby keeping kids in school more often with fewer gaps in their learning.”
Several of the district’s principals, including the Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy, are looking at innovative scheduling to help at-risk kids, said Norris. There are also several alternative programs including Leak Street High School, Leak Street Night Academy, Richmond Transitional School and Richmond Early College that give students an option besides Richmond Senior High School, where the district offers a traditional program.
“Our teachers have worked to enhance student engagement and to make their lessons interesting to the students. I don’t think any one thing is responsible, but rather a number of good initiatives coming together,” Norris said.
Key findings of the 2011-12 Consolidated Data Report show that:
• A total of 13,488 high school students dropped out in 2011-12 as compared to 15,342 students in 2010-11 (12.1 percent decrease).
• There were dropout count decreases in 70.4 percent (81 of 115) of school districts.
• Excluding the newly reported Pacific Islander group, black students had the largest percentage decrease in dropout count (16.1) followed by white students (10.8) and Hispanic students (9.7).
• Males accounted for 60.3 percent of reported dropouts, which was slightly up from 60 percent in 2010-11.
• Students dropped out most frequently at grade 10 (28.6 percent) followed by grade 9 (26.7 percent), grade 11 (25.3 percent) and grade 12 (17.3 percent).
• Attendance was the reason most cited for dropping out (41.5 percent).
In considering the annual dropout rate, educators say it is important to note that this rate is not the same as the four-year cohort graduation rate. The cohort graduation rate follows a group of ninth graders across four years’ time and reports the percentage of these students who graduate four years after they begin high school. North Carolina high schools reported a record-high 80.4 percent four-year cohort graduation rate for the class of 2012. A lower dropout rate often corresponds with a higher graduation rate.
The annual dropout rate illustrates the number and percentage of students who drop out during one year’s time. Some of these students may return to school in the subsequent year and complete high school; others may drop out multiple times. The four-year cohort graduation rate is considered a more comprehensive picture of this issue.
The full report containing district and charter school high school dropout counts and rates for 2010-11 and 2011-12 is available online at www.ncpublicschools.org/research/discipline/reports/.
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at email@example.com.