In a recent blog post, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson wrote,

Some have said that the North Carolina’s all-time high graduation rate must be a product of the state’s high unemployment rate. Knowing how hard our entire community has worked – students, teachers, parents, administrators and even nonprofits and volunteers – I have never believed that to be the case.

As part of broader research into what is causing our graduation rate to increase and how we can push it even higher, I asked some of our research staff to find the answer to this question: Is there a relationship between a school district’s graduation rate and its employment rate?

Their finding: there is a relationship. But higher graduation rates are associated with lower unemployment rates in the state’s 100 counties.

That doesn’t prove cause and effect, but it does tell us there must be more to the story than high jobless rates encouraging more students to stay in school. Something tells me it has more to do with the hard work I mentioned above and the fact that more of our students are determined to graduate college and career ready.

I’ll have more on what works to keep students on course to graduate in a future post.

I appreciate Atkinson’s willingness to employ her research staff in such an effort.  I have been asking the NC Department of Public Instruction to conduct such a study for a few years.  Now I trust that NC DPI researchers will release their findings to the public.