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Back to school in NC: By the numbers

An estimated 1,543,527 students will kick off a new school year in North Carolina next week, including those at 125 year-round schools across the state who returned earlier this month. This year’s K-12 public school enrollment represents an increase of about 6,000 students from last year and an increase of nearly 110,000 since 2006-07. Among this year’s students, an estimated 1.454 million will attend one of North Carolina’s 2,477 traditional public schools while an estimated 89,000 plan to attend one of the 167 charter schools. And enrollments in online courses offered by the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the nation’s second-largest state-supported virtual school, are expected to exceed 60,000 this school year.

“North Carolina’s public schools are working harder – and smarter – than ever to ensure that all their students are making good progress toward the goal we all share: graduates well prepared to meet the challenges of citizenship, postsecondary education, and careers,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “Educators in the state’s public schools continue to integrate technology, for themselves and their students, as an essential tool for effective teaching and learning. Yet even as schools discover new approaches to engaging students, educators know that the true power of education rests on a timeless foundation of high expectations and caring support to reach them.”

Other highlights for the 2016-17 school year include:

  • Revised high school mathematics standards for Math 1, 2, and 3, the key high school-level math courses required of all students. The changes, which begin this year, modify the sequence of standards covered in these three integrated mathematics courses and improve the clarity of standards were recommended by teachers. The standards are aligned to the standards expected by The College Board, ACT, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • Continued improvements to Home Base, North Carolina’s suite of digital classroom management tools and instructional resources for teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Efforts are underway by the Department of Public Instruction to expand the reach and effectiveness of Home Base with more extensive content for instruction and professional development for educators. Beginning its fourth year, Home Base’s full complement of digital tools now has 100 percent participation from all 115 districts in the state and 76 charter schools. More than 500,000 parents this year are expected to use the PowerSchool Parent Portal, the state’s student information app, to help keep abreast of their children’s education.
  • An expanded assessment pilot, started last year with 9,000 fifth and sixth graders, using NC Check-ins in reading and math during the school year and a summative assessment at the end of the academic year. Teachers use the results from these “check-ins” to tailor their instruction and provide immediate, timely assistance to students. The number of participating schools in the pilot will be increased this year from five percent of schools at the two grade and content area to approximately 15 percent; including a subset of low-performing schools and also allowing volunteers to participate, preferably one school per district; and requiring students to take the entire end-of-grade assessment, not a modified version.
  • A change in state policy governing middle school interscholastic sports, allowing local districts to include sixth grade participation, except in football. The decision to include sixth graders remains with local school boards.
  • A new hand signal required for all bus drivers tells students when a street is safe to cross. The extra precaution was added in January 2016. More than 13,000 school buses in North Carolina school districts will carry nearly 780,000 students to and from school each day. For more information, visit

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state’s public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.