As dropout rates increased throughout North Carolina, Clinton’s school system was one of the few that did not see a rise in students leaving school before their high school graduation.
According to a report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Clinton City Schools’ dropout rate decreased from 1.83 percent to 0.66 percent in the 2014-2015 school year. During the 2013-2014 academic year, 25 students left and during the following year, the number dropped to nine.
Dr. Stuart Blount, superintendent of Clinton City Schools, attributed the results to high school leaders such as Principal Dr. Steven Miller and Louie Boykin, dropout prevention coordinator.
“We’re moving our dropout rate in the direction that it needs to be,” Blount said. “It’s less than 1 percent for 2014-15 and we’re very proud of that. Our goal is to have no dropouts and we continue to strive in that direction.
“I applaud the efforts of our staff at the schools and teachers for the job they do to ensure that our students come to school engaged,” Blount continued. “That’s a big part of it. Students that are engaged in learning and excited about learning have a tendency to stay in school. That’s what we continue to strive for.”
North Carolina’s increased to 2.39 percent during the 2014-2015 school year. During the previous year (2013-2014), it was 2.28. More than 11,000 students quit school during the last school period, as opposed to the 10,404 students in 2013-2014. According to the report, 67 of 115 school systems (58.3 percent) saw an increase in the dropout rate.
The information from the Consolidated Data Report was presented to the State Board of Education during its March meeting. According to state officials, the .11 percentage point increase was the first increase in the dropout rate since 2006-2007, when the dropout rate increased from 5.04 to 5.24.
State Superintendent June Atkinson showed concern about the increase in North Carolina.
“My top goal since I took office hasn’t change: a 100 percent graduation rate,” Atkinson stated in a news release. “A high school diploma is the minimum requirement students must meet to land a job that will lead them into a successful career. I plan to work closely with department staff and local superintendents to determine possible reasons behind the increase and ways to reverse the trend.”
Along with Clinton some of the other school systems with the lowest dropout rate included Newton Conover City, Chapel-Hill Carrboro City, Washington County and Yadkin County. Systems with the highest included Warren, Person, Scotland and Lenoir counties.
Sampson County Schools’ (SCS) rate slightly increased from 2.20 (2013-2014 school year) to 2.66 percent (2014-2015), which is a jump from 89 to 108 students. The school with the highest dropout was Union High School with 32. It was followed by Hobbton at 29; Lakewood, 27; Midway, 19; and Sampson Early College with just one student.
“We are concerned by the dropout rate increase this year,” said SCS Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy. “This issue is one that requires constant vigilance by our entire community. Our administration will meet with counselors and other staff members to determine additional actions we need to take to ensure that our high schools are meeting the needs of every student.”
State officials noted that the increase is not the same as the four-year cohort graduation rate, which monitors a group of ninth graders who dropout and graduate from high school. School officials consider it a more comprehensive look at persistence and high school completion. North Carolina’s class of 2015 experienced a record-high 85.4 percent in the cohort rate.
School leaders added that the dropout rate show the number and percentage of students who dropout during an annual period. Some may return to school next year and finish high school while others may stop going on several occasions.
Blount believes dropout prevention begins before high school.
“What sometimes gets lost is that the dropout rate is tagged at the high school, but a lot of it starts on things that take place at the middle school and elementary school when it comes to getting students engaged,” Blount said. “That has an impact to the numbers attached at the high school, but it’s the efforts of many of our schools across the district that make the difference to help decrease the dropout rate.
“Although the state’s average did go up, we saw a significant decrease in our dropout rate and we’re very proud of that.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.