Wake Ed

Wake County reporting fewer dropouts, less school crime

Credit recovery class instructor Mike Bellissimo, standing, helps students, grades 9-12 focus their online studies during the second half of their computer lab at Sanderson High School, Raleigh, NC Thursday, September 1, 2016. Courses such as these are credited with helping reduce the dropout rate and improve the graduation rate in Wake County.
Credit recovery class instructor Mike Bellissimo, standing, helps students, grades 9-12 focus their online studies during the second half of their computer lab at Sanderson High School, Raleigh, NC Thursday, September 1, 2016. Courses such as these are credited with helping reduce the dropout rate and improve the graduation rate in Wake County. News & Observer file photo

The Wake County school system reported fewer dropouts and fewer school crimes this past school year with student suspension numbers remaining relatively unchanged.

A new state report being presented this week shows that Wake’s dropout rate improved from 2.15 percent in the 2014-15 school year to 1.69 percent in the 2015-16 school year. Wake also saw a 20-percent decrease in the number of high school dropouts, going from 1,019 students in 2014-15 to 819 in the 2015-16 school year.

Wake is doing better than the statewide dropout rate of 2.29 percent, which improved from 2.39 percent in the 2014-15 school year.

Wake’s dropout rate has been improving even as the district has added more high school students. In the 2011-12 school year, Wake had 1,236 dropouts and a dropout rate of 2.36 percent.

The dropout figures have improved as Wake’s graduation rate increased to a record 87.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year. Wake’s goal is to raise the graduation rate to 95 percent by 2020.

School crime down

In terms of reported school crime, Wake saw a 6.9 percent drop going from 890 crimes reported in the 2014-15 school year to 829 in the 2015-16 school year. The number of acts of school crime per 1,000 students also fell from 5.89 to 5.293.

Wake is doing better than the statewide rate of 6.62 reported acts of school crime per 1,000 students. North Carolina’s public schools reported a 3.2 percent drop in the number of reported crimes and a 3.9 percent drop in the number of acts per 1,000 students.

Possession of a controlled substance and possession of a weapon other than a firearm accounted for 85 percent of the reported school crimes in Wake County. Only one firearm was reported found in a Wake school during the 2015-16 school year compared to 10 firearms involving 15 students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

The number of reported school crimes has also been trending down over time in Wake County. In the 2011-12 school year, Wake school officials reported 1,099 acts of school crime at a rate of 7.531 acts per 1,000 students.

Suspension figures steady

Wake County reported a small increase in the number of students receiving suspensions in the state’s largest school system.

Wake reported 11,556 short-term suspensions during the 2015-16 school year. That’s compared to 11,511 suspensions in the 2014-15 school year. Short-term suspensions are for 10 or fewer days from school.

Wake also reported 327 long-term suspensions during the 2015-16 school year, up from 318 in the 2014-15 school year.

Overall, Wake reported 11,883 suspensions during the 2015-16 school year. That’s an 0.5 percent increase from the 11,829 suspensions in the 2014-15 school year.

Statewide, short-term suspensions were up 4 percent and long-term suspensions were down 4.5 percent.

Wake suspends far fewer students than it used to as part of an ongoing effort to change discipline practices to keep more students in class. The number of Wake suspensions is down 34 percent from the 2010-11 school year.

The changes have occurred as Wake has found itself under a federal civil rights investigation of its student discipline practices. The future of the investigation is unclear after the change in presidential administrations.

Critics of Wake’s discipline practices note that African-American students are still suspended at high rates. In the 2015-16 school year, Wake’s black students accounted for 63 percent of short-term suspensions and 65 percent of the long-term suspensions while representing 24 percent of the district’s enrollment.

Go to http://www.ncpublicschools.org/research/discipline/reports/ to view school crime reports and short-term suspension figures for individual school systems and individual schools.

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