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Dropout Prevention and Students At-Risk Program

Policy TitleDropout Prevention and Students At-Risk Program
Policy CategoryDropouts (DROP)
Policy IDDROP-001
Policy Date2017-08-03
Previous Policy Dates06/06/1990, 08/07/1996, 08/06/1998, 01/13/1999. 01/13/2000, 04/01/2004
Statutory ReferenceSB 43 (1989)

Formerly GCS-Q-001

The 1985 General Assembly established the state dropout prevention fund as a part of the Basic Education Program. The intent of the General Assembly is to increase the number and range of services to at-risk students. It is the policy of the State Board of Education that dropout prevention and students at risk services be a part of the educational program of every local education agency (LEA). The Board has established the goal of reducing the dropout rate in North Carolina. To facilitate the accomplishment of this goal, the State Board of Education has adopted a performance indicator in guidelines for implementation of the School Improvement and Accountability Act and a standard in state accreditation which requires all local education agencies to set a goal for the reduction of their dropout rates.

I.               DEFINITIONS

A.   Dropout - Any student who leaves school for any reason before graduation or completion of a program of studies without transferring to another elementary or secondary school.

B.   Student at risk - A student at risk is a young person who because of a wide range of individual, personal, financial, familial, social, behavioral or academic circumstances may experience school failure or other unwanted outcomes unless interventions occur to reduce the risk factors. Circumstances which often place students at risk may include, but are not limited to: not meeting state/local proficiency standards, grade retention; unidentified or inadequately addressed learning needs, alienation from school life; unchallenging curricula and/or instruction, tardiness and or poor school attendance; negative peer influence; unmanageable behavior; substance abuse and other health risk behaviors, abuse and neglect; inadequate parental/family and/or school support; and limited English proficiency.

C.  Alternative Learning Programs – Alternative Learning Programs are defined as services for students at risk of truancy, academic failure, behavior problems, and/or dropping out of school. These services should be designed to better meet the needs of students who have not been successful in the regular public school setting. Alternative learning programs serve students at any level who

  1. are suspended and/or expelled,
  2. are at risk of participation in juvenile crime,
  3. have dropped out and desire to return to school,
  4. have a history of truancy,
  5. are returning from juvenile justice settings or psychiatric hospitals, or
  6. have learning styles that are better served in an alternative setting.

Alternative learning programs provide individualized programs outside of a standard classroom setting in a caring atmosphere in which students learn the skills necessary to redirect their lives.

An alternative learning program must

  1. provide the primary instruction for selected at-risk students
  2. enroll students for a designated period of time, usually a minimum of one academic grading period, 
  3. offer course credit or grade-level promotion credit in core academic areas and
  4. provide transition support to and from/between the school of origin and alternative learning program.

Alternative learning programs may also

  1. address behavioral or emotional problems that interfere with adjustment to or benefiting from the regular education classroom,
  2. provide smaller classes and/or student/teacher ratios,
  3. provide instruction beyond regular school hours,
  4. provide flexible scheduling, and/or
  5. assist students in meeting graduation requirements other than course credits.

Alternative learning programs for at-risk students typically serve students in an alternative school or alternative program within the regular school.

D.   Alternative School - An Alternative School is one option for an alternative learning program. It serves at-risk students and has an organizational designation based on the DPI assignment of an official school code. An alternative school is different from a regular public school and provides choices of routes to completion of school. For the majority of students, the goal is to return to the regular public school. Alternative schools may vary from other schools in such areas as teaching methods, hours, curriculum, or sites, and they are intended to meet particular learning needs.


A.   Funds may be used to support programs and services to at-risk students in all grades, pre-kindergarten through grade twelve.

B.   Each school system and school shall develop and maintain identifiable and targeted dropout prevention and students at risk program to meet the needs of students at risk of school failure. The program shall be goal oriented and shall include specific strategies to improve student achievement and keep students in school. Plans shall be maintained at the LEA and be available for review by Department of Public Instruction staff. Individual schools with dropout rates above the annual state average and/or those that have not steadily reduced their dropout rates annually shall develop a dropout prevention plan based on best practices and shall incorporate these strategies into their School Improvement Plan.

C.  LEAs are encouraged to develop a personal education plan for each identified student at risk.

D.  Funds may be used to employ full-time or part-time personnel.

E.  Funds may be used to compensate substitute teachers.

F.  All personnel must hold State Board of Education certification appropriate for the teaching or student services position held. Personnel in in-school suspension programs may in some instances be non-certified, as determined by program needs on a case-by-case basis. However, in instances where these personnel are not certified, they should minimally have the same training as required for teacher assistants. In-school suspension programs should include both an instructional focus and behavior modification strategies.

G. Funds may be used for administrative costs to support the salary, travel, and supplies of a full- or part-time coordinator (supervisor or director).

H. Funds may be used for instructional materials, supplies, travel, and equipment for dropout prevention and students at risk staff and programs.

I.  All work of staff employed through dropout prevention funds must directly benefit students at risk of dropping out. Dropout prevention and students at risk staff may, however, share proportionately in routine duties carried out by all staff of a school.

J. State dropout prevention and students at risk funds may not supplant dropout prevention programs funded from other state and federal sources (except Job Training Partnership Act funds).

K. All Average Daily Membership positions that are generated by dropout prevention programs, such as extended school day and alternative schools, should remain within those programs to provide additional services to at-risk youths.

L.  Funds may be used for dropout prevention programs throughout the twelve months of the fiscal year but may not be carried forward to the next fiscal year.

M. Each LEA shall submit data requested by the Department of Public Instruction.


Each LEA is expected to implement the following guidelines for dropout prevention. The program's impact can be evaluated by the indicators listed.

A. Reduce the dropout rate of the school system.


1. A decrease in the number of dropouts as set forth in the Lea’s accountability plan.

B. Provide an alternative to out-of-school suspension by creating a learning and therapeutic environment within the school for students with problems which would normally lead to out-of-school suspension.


1. A reduction in the number of out-of-school suspensions from the previous school year.

2. A reduction in the number of in-school suspensions from the previous school year.

C. Develop and adopt by the local board of education a system-wide discipline policy incorporating a continuum of approaches to be used in addressing behavior problems.


1. A reduction in the number of incidents and referrals to the principal's office for behavior problems from the previous school year.

2. Completed copy of the adopted discipline policy.

D. Implement a system, using teachers, counselors, or other appropriate personnel, for early identification of at-risk students, grades K-12, with an emphasis on the early grades, K-3.


1. Development and adoption of a system for the identification of at-risk students, kindergarten through grade twelve.

2. Development and maintenance of a profile of each at-risk student. The profile should include grades, truancy (attendance record), number of retentions, and discipline problems.

E. Develop and enhance programs and services to identify, assess, and resolve difficulties which may interfere with a student's attendance.


1. A reduction in unlawful absences from the previous school year.

F. Establish linkages with community agencies for program support and coordination.


1. Development and adoption of written cooperative agreements with at least two community agencies serving at-risk students.

2. Collection of data on the number of referrals of individual students to community agencies (results to be submitted to state agency).


A wide range of programs for dropout prevention and students at risk is needed within every school system and community to complement the quality educational programs available to all students. Listed below are the types of programs which may be funded through state dropout prevention and students at risk funds. Within these general options, the specific programs to be implemented will be determined by each local school system based on an assessment of needs and local priorities. Local programs may include components of one or more of these options, but every school system is encouraged to develop programs which can most effectively meet local needs.

A. Early Identification and Intervention Programs:

Early identification and intervention programs seek to recognize students who may face problems and prevent or ameliorate those problems before they become severe.

B. Counseling for At-Risk Students:

Counseling for at-risk students focuses the skills of counselors on preventing and alleviating the problems facing students which can lead to dropping out. Counselors identify at-risk students and follow up to assure that needed services are provided.

C. Behavior Improvement Programs:

Behavior improvement programs seek to improve discipline in the schools through a variety of approaches, with the ultimate goal of greater self-discipline. The emphasis is on increasing the ability of teachers to handle discipline within their own classrooms. In-school suspension programs are one alternative for students whose behavior is extremely disruptive and could result in suspension or expulsion. The programs focus on reduction of disruptive behavior and provide classroom instruction as well as counseling in a therapeutic setting.

D. Academic Enhancement Programs:

Academic enhancement programs are designed to accelerate the learning of students who are falling behind their peers in academic achievement. Through remediation, accelerated learning, continuous progress learning, and other enhancements, the goal is to increase achievement while keeping these at-risk students a part of the overall educational program in the schools.

E. Work-Related Programs:

Work-related programs identify potential dropouts and offer counseling, remediation, career guidance, and job preparation services designed to meet their individual needs. These services are intended to assist at-risk students in moving from school to the work environment and to provide them with skills necessary to compete in today's society.

F. Services for At-Risk Students:

Services for at-risk students are designed to meet particular local needs and priorities. The basic requirement of each service is that its primary goal is to encourage achievement and keep students in school. Among the types of services that may be funded are attendance improvement programs and other programs that serve groups of at-risk students, such as the handicapped, juvenile and youthful offenders, substance abusers, pregnant students, or adolescent parents, such as school social work, school psychology services, or school nursing, to at-risk students. Services such as after-school care and enrichment, public/private partnerships, mentoring, support clubs, summer activities, peer helpers, outdoor experiences, student advocacy, and parental involvement are encouraged (to the extent that they may be funded under other guidelines set forth herein).

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