To the Editor:
Recently the North Carolina Department of Pubic Instruction released the annual report on school crime, violence and dropouts which showed an increase in crime and dropout rates in North Carolina public schools from last year. The state’s overall crime rate in schools increased 1.5 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15 and 6.6 percent at the high school level. The dropout rate increased 4.8 percent during the same time period. The 2014-15 Consolidated Data Report will be presented to State Board of Education members next week.
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 2014-15 Consolidated Data Report show that:
School Crime and Violence
The number of reportable crimes by high school students increased by 372 from 2013-14 to 2014-15, a 6.8% increase. However, there was a decrease in crimes by students in lower grades, resulting in an overall increase in reportable crimes for all grades of 215 and an overall crime rate increase of 1.5%. The Avery County Schools had 8 reportable acts during the 2014-2015 school year. The majority of these were possession of a pocket knife.
LEAs with the highest rates of grade 9-12 reportable crimes were Transylvania County, Warren County, Perquimans County, Yadkin County, Asheville City, Greene County, Chatham County, Brunswick County, McDowell County, and Buncombe County.
LEAs reporting the largest 3-year decreases in rates of grade 9-12 reportable crimes were Elkin City, Jones County, Tyrell County, Washington County, and Cherokee County.
LEAs with the largest 3-year increases in rates of grade 9-12 reportable crimes were Swain County, Newton Conover City, Warren County, Edenton/Chowan and Greene County. Although Newton Conover City and Edenton/Chowan had large increases, their 2014-15 grade 9-12 crime rates were below the state average.
The most frequently reported crimes in high school were 1) possession of a controlled substance in violation of the law, 2) possession of a weapon excluding firearms and powerful explosives, and 3) possession of an alcoholic beverage.
- There were 86,578 grade 9-12 short-term suspensions reported statewide in 2014- 5, an increase of 2.7% from the 2013-14 total of 84,295. The Avery County Schools had 65 short term suspensions for the 2014-2015 school year, with 55 being high school students.
One of nine North Carolina high school students received at least one out-of- school short-term suspension in 2014-15. Many students received only one suspension each year, but a number of students received multiple short-term suspensions. High school students who received short-term suspensions in 2014- 15 averaged 1.83 suspensions each. The average total duration of short-term suspensions for high school students who received at least one suspension was 6.44 days. The average duration of a single short-term suspension was 3.51 days. The grade 9-12 short-term suspension rate was 1.95 suspensions per ten students.
Ninth grade students received the largest number of short-term suspensions. The rate of short-term suspensions for male students was 2.8 times higher than for females.
LEAs with the highest rates of grade 9-12 short-term suspensions were Halifax County, Anson County, Weldon City, Richmond County, Caswell County, Robeson County, Hertford County, Edgecombe County, Whiteville City, and Northampton County.
- The number of long-term suspensions (11 or more days) for all students declined slightly from 1,088 to 1,085. Average school days per suspension increased from 62.6 to 72.4 school days. High school students received 761 long-term suspensions, a 6.6% increase from 2013-14. The Avery County Schools had no long-term suspensions during the 2014-2015 school year.
- The number of expulsions in the state increased to 42, a 13.5% increase from the 37 reported for 2013-14. High school students received 37 of the 42 expulsions. The Avery County Schools had no expulsions during the 2014-2015 school year.
Alternative Schools and Programs
- Alternative schools and programs (ALPs) reported 13,448 student placements in 2014-15, an 8.4% increase from the 12,403 reported in 2013-14. There were 12,657 individual students placed in ALPs during the 2014-15 school year. Schools made 4,023 assignments of students to ALPs as disciplinary actions.
High schools in North Carolina reported 11,190 dropouts in 2014-15. The grade 9-12 dropout rate in 2014-15 was 2.39%, up from the 2.28% reported for 2013- 14. The increase in the dropout rate was 4.8%. The Avery County Schools had 9 dropouts or 1.35%.
There were increases in the dropout count in 58.3% (67 of 115) of the LEAs. Four LEAs stayed the same as the previous year. There were decreases in 38.3% (44 of 115) of the LEAs. The Avery County Schools decreased by 35.7% from the 2013-2014 school year.
The 11,190 dropouts recorded in grades 9-12 represented a 7.6% increase from the count of 10,404 recorded in 2013-14.
Males accounted for 62 percent of reported dropouts, which was slightly down from the 62.7 percent reported last year.
Attendance issues were again the reason most often cited for dropping out, accounting for 40.3 percent of all dropouts. Enrollment in a community college came in second at 15.8 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 85.6 percent four-year cohort graduation rate for the class of 2015, up from 83.9 percent for the class of 2014. The cohort graduation rate for the Avery County Schools was 93.8% for the class of 2015. This was the third highest in the state of North Carolina. This rate was slightly lower than our state-leading 95% in 2014.
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 2014-15 is available online at www.wral.com/crime-dropout-rates-increase-in-nc-schools/15419400/#84k1dk8pPkljwX9b.99In.
ACS Supt. David Burleson