New graduation rate data released today shows slightly more than two-thirds of North Carolina ninth-graders earn a high-school diploma within four years.
State education officials didn't defend the 68 percent graduation rate. But they also are cautioning against assuming that the remaining 32 percent of students dropped out. They say students who took longer than four years to graduate weren't accounted for in the measure.
State Board of Education chairman Howard Lee says North Carolina's graduation rate has been a long-standing problem and that the rate isn't where officials want it to be.
It's the first time North Carolina officials have released the cohort graduation rate, a measure recommended by the National Governor's Association that shows what percentage of first-time ninth graders graduated four years later. Several other states also have agreed to use the rate and change the way they report graduation information.