From the Desk of ACS Supt. David Burleson: School Crime, Violence and Dropouts

Published Monday, March 16, 2015 at 12:11 pm

To the Editor:

Recently the North Carolina Department of Pubic Instruction released the annual report on school crime, violence and dropouts. In the entire state, the total number of reportable acts of school crime and violence, short- and long-term suspensions and the use of corporal punishment decreased for the third year in a row although the number of expulsions remained the same, according to the 2013-14 Consolidated Data Report presented to State Board of Education members last week. The total number of acts of school crime and violence was the lowest reported since 2008-09 while the number of students in North Carolina public schools was at an all-time high of 1,509,985.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said a positive learning environment is essential for strong classroom instruction and high student achievement. “Our goal is for all students to be fully engaged and focused on success in the classroom. When teachers, school leaders, and parents encourage positive behavior, we will continue to see a decrease in dropouts, suspensions and expulsions and an increase in the high school graduation rate.”

Key findings of the 2013-14 Consolidated Data Report show that:

School Crime and Violence

  • The total number of reported acts of school crime and violence decreased by 4.7 percent to 10,132 from 10,630 acts in 2012-13. The rate of acts per 1,000 students also decreased by 5.7 percent to 6.79 acts per 1,000 students as compared to 7.20 acts per 1,000 students in 2012-13. The Avery County Schools had 8 reportable acts during the 2013-2014 school year. The majority of these were possession of pocket knives.
  • Schools are required to report 16 offenses that occur on campus or school property. Of those reported, dangerous or violent offenses account for 3.4 percent or 343. The most frequently reported acts involved illegal possession of controlled substances, weapons (excluding firearms or powerful explosives) or alcoholic beverages, and assault on school personnel. These four acts accounted for 95 percent or 9,630 of the total number of reported acts.
  • Seventy-eight percent or 1,982 schools reported five or less acts of crime and violence.

Suspensions and Expulsions

  • Short-term suspensions (10 days or fewer) among students in all grades decreased by 20 percent in 2013-14. There were 198,254 short-term suspensions reported as opposed to the 247,919 reported in 2012-13. Of that total, 42.5 percent or 84,295 can be attributed to high school students, which is a 24.1 percent decrease from the 2012-13 total of 111,122. The average duration of a single short-term suspension was 2.97 days, up from 2.74 days in 2012-13. In the Avery County Schools we had a total of 32 short term suspensions and 19 of those were high school students.
  • Long-term suspensions (11 days or more) declined among students in all grades in 2013-14, with 1,088 reported. This is a 23.5 percent decrease from the 1,423 reported in 2012-13. High school students received 714 or 65.6 percent of long-term suspensions, which was a 27.3 percent decrease from the 982 reported in 2012-13. The average duration of a long-term suspension was 62.6 school days, up from 49.3 days per suspension in 2012-13. In the Avery County Schools there were no long-term suspensions.
  • Expulsions remained the same in 2013-14 at 37. High school students received 34 of those expulsions, up from the 28 reported the previous year. There were no expulsions in the Avery County Schools.

Once again, the dropout rate for North Carolina public schools hit a record low. Last school year, 2.28 percent of high school students dropped out of school, which represents a 6.9 percent decrease from the previous year’s record low of 2.45 percent.

“This is a day for celebration as North Carolina has seen another record low dropout rate and two school districts report no dropouts,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said. “This could not have been done without the hard work and perseverance of students, educators and parents. Students realize a high school diploma is the first step toward reaching their life goals. I look forward to the day when reporting zero dropouts is the rule and not the exception.”

Key findings of the 2013-04 Consolidated Data Report show that:

  • The annual high school dropout rate decreased from 2.45 percent to 2.28 percent for 2013-14 (6.9 percent decrease). In the Avery County Schools 14 students dropped out of school which is 2.01%.
  • A total of 10,404 high school students dropped out in 2013-14 as compared to 11,049 in 2012-13 (5.8 percent decrease).
  • There were dropout count decreases in 65 of 115 of school districts.
  • The number of high school students dropping out decreased at all grade levels and for all ethnic groups except American Indian, which increased, and multi-racial, which remained the same.
  • Males accounted for 62.7 percent of reported dropouts, which was up from the 61.5 percent reported last year.
  • Attendance issues were again the reason most often cited for dropping out, accounting for 42 percent of all dropouts. Enrollment in a community college came in second at 14.8 percent.

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 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 83.9 percent four-year cohort graduation rate for the class of 2014. A lower dropout rate typically corresponds with a high graduation rate. In the Avery County Schools the cohort graduation rate was 95% and was the best rate in the state.

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 the following year and complete high school while 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 state, district and charter high school dropout counts and rates for 2013-14 is available online at www.ncpublicschools.org/research/dropout/.

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