Educational Performance Indicators


= Top southern state

(not available for all indicators)

NC Pre-K Enrollment

Percent of eligible North Carolina 4 year-olds enrolled in the public NC Pre-K program

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During the 2018-19 school year, only about half—48%—of North Carolina’s eligible 4-year-olds from lower income families were enrolled in a state Pre-K program. By 2030, the goal is that 75% of eligible four-year-olds in each county will be enrolled in public pre-K programs in North Carolina. Currently 28 out of 100 counties have met this enrollment goal.


College-and-Career-Ready in Reading

Percent of North Carolina students in grades 3-8 who earned a college-and-career-ready score on the End-of-Grade Reading exam

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Forty-five percent of North Carolina 3rd through 8th graders earned college-and-career-ready scores on the Reading End-of-Grade exam in 2019. By 2030, the goal is to have 73% of students in grades 3-8 earn college-and-career-ready scores in reading. 

NAEP Fourth Grade Reading

Percent of North Carolina 4th grade students who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in Reading

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Thirty-six percent of North Carolina’s 4th grade students scored at or above proficiency on the NAEP fourth grade reading assessment, placing our state 19th among all states in 2019. In Virginia, the southern state with the highest reading proficiency rate, 38% are proficient. By 2030, the goal is that 42% of North Carolina’s 4th grade students will demonstrate reading proficiency on the NAEP assessment.


College-and-Career-Ready in Math

Percent of North Carolina students in grades 3-8 who earned a college-and-career-ready score on the end-of-grade math exam

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Forty-one percent of North Carolina 3rd through 8th graders earned college-and-career-ready scores on the Math End-of-Grade exam in 2019. By 2030, the goal is to have 86% of students earn college-and-career-ready scores in math.


NAEP Eighth Grade Math

Percent of North Carolina 8th grade students who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in Math

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Nearly 37% of North Carolina’s 8th grade students scored at or above proficiency on the NAEP 8th grade math assessment, placing our state 20th among all states in 2019. In Virginia, the top-performing southern state, 38% of students scored at or above proficient in math. By 2030, the goal is that 42% of North Carolina’s 8th grade students will demonstrate math proficiency on the NAEP assessment.


Chronic Absenteeism

Percent of North Carolina K-12 students missing 15 or more days of school (indicator shown as distance from 100%)

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Nearly 15% of North Carolina K-12 students were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year, meaning they missed 15 or more days of school during the year. This placed our state 24th among all states in 2016. South Carolina (11.3%) had the lowest chronic absenteeism rate among southern states. By 2030, the goal is to reduce the statewide chronic absenteeism rate to 11%.


High School Graduation Rate

Percent of North Carolina public high school students graduating in four years

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North Carolina’s high school graduation rate is currently 87%, placing our state 22nd among all states in 2017. Tennessee (90%) was the top-performing Southern state. By 2030, the goal is that 95% of North Carolina high school students will graduate within four years or less.


ACT Performance

Percent of North Carolina Grade 11 students earning an ACT composite score of 17 or above (UNC minimum)

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In 2019, 56% of North Carolina public school 11th graders earned an ACT composite score of 17 or higher. By 2030, the goal is to have 70% of 11th graders earn an ACT score of 17 or higher.


FAFSA Completion Rate

Percent of North Carolina high school seniors completing Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSAs)

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North Carolina’s FAFSA completion rate is currently 64%, placing our state 19th among all states in 2019. Tennessee had the highest FAFSA completion rate (80%) among southern comparison states. By 2030, the goal is that 80% of North Carolina high school seniors will complete the FAFSA.


Postsecondary Enrollment Rate

Percent of North Carolinians 18-24 enrolled in a postsecondary institution

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North Carolina’s postsecondary enrollment rate for 18-24-year-olds was 41% in 2018, placing our state 27th among all states. Virginia (43%) was the southern comparison state with the highest postsecondary enrollment rate. By 2030, the goal is to have 47% of North Carolina 18-24-year-olds enrolled in college or graduate school.


First-Year Persistence Rate

Percent of students beginning postsecondary at a North Carolina institution and continue to a second year of enrollment at any postsecondary institution

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North Carolina’s first-year persistence rate was 77%, placing our state 14th among all states in 2018. Georgia (78%) had the highest first-year persistence rate among southern states. By 2030, the goal is to have 80% of North Carolina’s first-year undergraduate students persist to their second year.


Postsecondary Completion Rate: 4yr Public

Percent of students beginning postsecondary at a North Carolina 4-year public institution who complete a degree or credential within 6 years

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North Carolina’s postsecondary completion rate for students who began at a 4-year public institution was 74% in 2018, placing our state 9th among all states.  In Virginia, the top-performing southern state, this rate was 80%. By 2030, the goal is to have 80% of students who begin postsecondary at a University of North Carolina system school complete a degree or credential within six years.


Postsecondary Completion Rate: 4yr Private

Percent of students beginning postsecondary at a North Carolina 4-year private institution who complete a degree or credential within 6 years

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North Carolina’s postsecondary completion rate for students who began at a 4-year private institution was 72% in 2018, placing our state 28th among all states. In Texas, the top-performing southern state, this rate was 75%. By 2030, the goal is to have 80% of students who begin postsecondary at a North Carolina 4-year private institution complete a degree or credential within six years.


Postsecondary Completion Rate: 2yr Public

Percent of students beginning postsecondary at a North Carolina 2-year public institution who complete a degree or credential within 6 years

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North Carolina’s postsecondary completion rate for students who began at a 2-year public institution was 38% in 2018, placing our state 28th among all states. In Florida, the top-performing southern state, this rate was 48%. By 2030, the goal is to have 45% of students who begin college at an NC community college complete a degree or credential within six years.


Labor Market Alignment

Alignment between the skills of graduates and the needs of employers

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North Carolina’s labor market alignment was 82% in the most recently available data, meaning roughly eight-in-ten graduates from state postsecondary institutions had skills and credentials aligned with job openings.


Disconnected Youth

Percent of North Carolina 16-19-year-olds neither in school or working (indicator shown as distance from 100%)

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Just over one in every fourteen (7.0%) North Carolina 16-19-year-olds was not in school or working in 2018, placing our state 31st among all states for disconnected youth. In Virginia, the southern state with the lowest levels of youth disconnection, this rate was 4.8%.


Labor Force Participation Rate

Percent of North Carolina 25-44-year-olds in the labor force

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More than eight in every ten—83%—of North Carolina adults ages 25-44 were in the labor force in 2018, the 33rd highest rate among the states. In Virginia, the southern state with the highest rate, this proportion was 85%.


Family-Sustaining Wage

Percent of North Carolina 35-44-year-olds earning a living wage

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Slightly more than half—54%—of North Carolina’s mid-career adults (35-44) had a family income greater than 300% of the federal poverty line in 2018. This proportion was 65% in Virginia, the top-performing southern state. In Texas and Georgia—two southern states with similar costs of living to North Carolina—the share of adults earning a family-sustaining wage was comparable to our state: 55% in Texas and 54% in Georgia.