The dropout rate in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools declined for the fourth year in a row, according to data released by the Department of Public Instruction March 3 for the 2009-2010 school year. The decline was 17.2 percent: The number of students who dropped out in 2009-2010 was 1,637 compared to 1,976 for the same period a year earlier. The number of expulsions and short-term suspensions in CMS also declined, according to state data.
The dropout rate for the DPI report is calculated by counting the number of students who left school in a given year. This calculation is slightly different from the more frequently used number (also calculated by the state) of the percentage of students graduating each year. The CMS dropout rate for 2009-2010 was 4.15 percent, down from 4.99 a year earlier, 5.91 percent in 2007-2008 and 6.39 in 2006-2007 – making CMS one of five counties with the largest three-year decreases in dropout count.
The decline mirrored a state-wide decrease, as well. High schools in North Carolina overall reported a 3.75 percent dropout rate last year, compared to 4.27 percent a year earlier.
"We are pleased to see our dropout rate decline," said Dr. Peter C. Gorman, superintendent of CMS. "We're one of the few districts in the state to have a credit-recovery program and a ninth-grade academy and we think these programs are helping us lower the number of students who drop out. But we'd like to see the number decline even more and we'll keep working with our struggling students to improve their performance in school."
The numbers are part of an annual report on dropouts and violence in schools, which identifies 10 acts as violent. The 10 are used to calculate which schools are designated persistently dangerous. Eight schools in CMS are on the list, up from five last year.
Among the 10 violent crimes identified by the state data, four declined in CMS: assault involving use of a weapon, kidnapping, rape and robbery without a dangerous weapon. Three of the 10 remained at zero for both years: death by other than natural causes, robbery with a dangerous weapon and taking indecent liberties with a minor. The remaining three increased: assault resulting in serious injury, sexual assault and sexual offense. In all, the number of incidents classified as violent acts increased from 62 to 107 in CMS for the 2009-2010 school year, the data shows.
Other offenses for which the state gathers data include assault on school personnel, bomb threats, burning of school buildings, possession of alcoholic beverages, controlled substances, firearms or explosives, and weapons.
All of these incidents increased in the 2009-2010 school year at CMS, according to state data. The largest increases occurred in assaults on school personnel (215 incidents, up from 169 a year earlier) and possession of a weapon (543 incidents, up from 484 a year earlier. One factor in the increase of assaults may be a change in the state definition of school personnel – it was expanded to include volunteers, police officers, sports referees and others.