American Graduate

American Graduate

Click Here to see Additional Video Resources from North Carolina Teachers

North Carolina Now
American Graduate Coverage, followed by interview with NC New Schools Project President Dr. Tony Habit and Edstar Analytics CEO Dr. Janet Johnson

UNC-TV Town Hall Meeting & discussion hosted by Heather Burgiss

Ask any student whether he or she will graduate from high school, and the vast majority - 92% - say they expect to earn a diploma.

For many of these students, the reality is much different. Only seven in 10 actually finish high school. When it comes to Hispanic, African-American and Native American students, that statistic drops to six in 10. Students have the will to graduate, but they often do not have the necessary support. Recognizing a need to help students stay on the path to graduation, many PBS stations, including UNC-TV, are participating in an innovative program, American Graduate, to combat the dropout crisis in this country. More information about the national initiative, including clips of compelling television programs, can be found here.

North Carolina's Story
When many people hear the word "dropout" they think of high school students. Yet the tendency toward dropping out of school can start as early as elementary school or before. Did you know that if a child isn't reading on grade level by fourth grade, they will likely never catch up? While 65.4% of North Carolina fourth graders ranked "proficient" or level 3 on their end of grade tests in reading in 2010-11, 34.6%, or over a third of students, did not. This can sow the seeds of quitting school early later on. In fact, based on this year's fourth grade reading scores, many states are already planning the number of new prison cells they will need in the next century.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Web site, adults who do not have a high school diploma are:

  • more likely to be incarcerated
  • more likely to suffer from poor health
  • less likely to earn enough money to support themselves or a family
  • more likely to need help from government, social service agencies and charities

The financial costs for the state are staggering. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) , almost 54,000 students dropped out from the Class of 2010 with devastating effects on themselves and their communities. The AEE estimates that if the dropout rate could be cut in half, the following positive benefits could be realized:

  • $292 million in increased earnings
  • $221 million in increased spending
  • $71 million in increased investments
  • $655 million in increased home sales
  • $30 million in increased auto sales
  • 2,600 new jobs with a $376 million boost in economic growth
  • $28 million in increased tax revenue
  • Increased numbers of postsecondary graduates

Further, according to AEE, there are 81 high schools in North Carolina that are considered among the nation's lowest performing, meaning that fewer than 60 percent of freshmen graduate in four years. Several of these are in Charlotte. However, a new project, called Project LIFT seeks to change that. Click here to watch the encouraging story of how students' lives are being transformed.

North Carolina Resources
If your child needs help, ask for assistance. Start with your school district and ask them what alternative programs/strategies are in place to help students at risk of dropping out. Click here to visit the website for dropout prevention for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). Information on the series of parent empowerment workshops that NCDPI can offer can be found here. The person to contact is Debora Williams at (919) 807-3912.

Communities in Schools of North Carolina offers comprehensive support for students in most counties of North Carolina. This site will help you locate the program in your area or you can phone 1-800-849-8881. Be inspired by these stories of success and get ideas for your area: If you want to help stem the dropout crisis in North Carolina, contact Communities in Schools or call 1-800-849-8881. If you are Hispanic or Latino, the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals offers dropout programs in some areas of the state. Contact info is here and more information on the dropout and school achievement programs is here.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol also wants parents and students to know that dropping out can impact a teenager's ability to get a drivers license. DMV will revoke the driver license of any person under age 18 when it receives notice from proper school authorities that the student is no longer eligible for a Driving Eligibility Certificate. For more info click here.

Other PBS stations in North Carolina and around the nation are working on the American Graduate Project, including WUNC in Chapel Hill. WUNC has done extensive work in equipping students to do their own reporting on why they were considering dropping out. Hear their powerful stories here

PLEASE NOTE: If you want to help stem the dropout crisis in North Carolina, contact Communities in Schools or call 1-800-849-8881.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recommends that you arm yourself with knowledge. First, find out what the graduation requirements are in your district. Start here to find out the state requirements for graduation, but you'll also need to check with your local school district to see if they have any additional requirements. Second, ask empowering questions. Below are 10 questions that parents and advocates should ask their schools. These questions were developed and provided by the North Carolina State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction.

1. At what level is my child performing on the End-of-Grade or End-of-Course Tests? What is my child's scale score within that level? Note: if your child is performing at Level I or Level II, say, "I wish to review my child's Personal Evaluation Plan." If there is not one, insist that one be written with parental input.

2. On what grade level is my child being taught?

3. Who is my child's counselor and what does he/she do with my child?

4. Is my child in rigorous and challenging classes? What does the school do to get more minority and other diverse students in these types of classes? What supports are given to these students academically and socially?

5. How does my child perform in class, academically, behaviorally, and with regard to completion of homework?

6. Did our school make its ABC goals? What is the level of performance of our school? Did all of our school's subgroups make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)?

7. How is the school using its "at-risk" funds, Title I funds, Student Accountability Standards funds, or other funds to assist students who are functioning below grade level? Ask specifically about your child if your child is performing at Level I or Level II.

8. Does our school use "ability grouping" (tracking) to sort students? If so, what is the percentage of minority students and other diverse students (African-American, American Indian, Hispanic, free and reduced lunch students) in those advanced classes or groups?

9. What can I do to help my child? When can I schedule a time that my child and I can meet with all of my child's teachers? How do I contact the teacher? The Principal? Central Office? Administrators? The Superintendent?

10. How do I join the school's parent organization (PTA, PTO, PTSA, PTSO, etc.)?

National Resources
National Public Radio (NPR)
did a series of programs on high school dropouts. Education correspondent Claudio Sanchez profiled three individuals who dropped out of school years ago, as well as two teenagers who are at risk of dropping out and the adults who are working hard to keep them in school. You can find more information on the series here. National resources--including lists of effective strategies, state and local agencies addressing the problem, how to get help for disabled students, and family and student support material--can be found here.

Innovative Dropout Programs on UNC-TV
UNC-TV has produced several programs that explore innovative programs across the state. The first, called Taking Initiative, looks at the graduation coaches that Guilford County put in place to help keep students in school. Another UNC-TV program, called The Principal Story, highlights principals and their work as instructional leaders. Schools with principals who take a strong role in instruction have often seen their dropout rates go down. Today more than thirteen thousand middle and high school students across the state are preparing to Gain Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs through GEAR UP. The half hour documentary called GearUp North Carolina features many of North Carolina's key education and political leaders as well as the fresh faces and voices of middle and high school students who are contemplating their future in a rapidly changing world.

While many of their parents could depend on manufacturing, tobacco, textiles and furniture to provide a good standard of living for the family, these kids will need more education to be successful or even to compete at all. For students at risk of dropping out, Algebra I can often be a stumbling block. That's why WNET designed Get the Math, an alternative, engaging approach to Algebra I. The program uses real life examples such as fashion designers and recording artists, to show students how Algebra I is critical to success in those industries. The local site is here. Deborah Holt Noel hosted a live panel discussion at Union Independent School in Durham at the launch of an innovative 7 million dollar project called Bridge to Success. The project, created by Dr. Jim Johnson of the Kenan-Flagler Business School and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is designed to intervene in the lives of minority males and provide research on constructive ways to help them succeed in school and beyond.