dropout

In North Carolina and 21 other states kids only have to go to school till they’re sixteen years old.  But next year Hickory and Newton-Conover Schools will raise the dropout age to eighteen. 

That sixteen year old dropout age harkens back to another time when you could easily get a good-paying job in a furniture factory or textile mill without a high school diploma.  

“That’s drastically changed.  A kid drops out of school at 16 today, with rare exception, there aren’t any satisfactory jobs available,” says Jerry Phillips, a retired businessman in Hickory. 

About 15,000 kids a year drop out of North Carolina schools.  In Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the number is about 1,500.  School social workers have long made house calls to many kids who simply stop showing up at school.  They try to figure out why the child left, get them help, and show them ways they can catch up. 

This is a sensitive situation.  Imagine you're a kid who has given up on school and then a social worker shows up on your doorstep. 

"I've had families look through the blinds and not come to the door," says Heidi Berger, a CMS social worker.