North Carolina

Opportunity to Learn Index Score: 61% (Tied-14th)
Percentage of Students at National Proficient Level or Above: 28% (Tied-30th)


Disadvantaged Student Group (1) Opportunity to Learn
(compared to White, non-Latino students
Native American 29%        
Black 60%        
Latino 71%        
Poverty (FARL) (2) 60%        

North Carolina ranks 29th among the states when the Opportunity to Learn of the state’s historically disadvantaged students is combined with a measure of educational quality (3). North Carolina’s Native American, Black and Latino students, taken together, have less than two-thirds of the opportunity to learn in the state’s best-supported, best-performing schools than the state’s White, non-Latino students, as do low-income students.

Opportunity to Learn Core Resource Resource Access Rank
Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education (4) 11th      
Access to Highly Qualified Teachers (5) 3rd      
Access to Instructional Materials (6) 38th      
Access to College Preparatory Curriculum (7) 32nd      

The key Opportunity to Learn resources used in this report are high quality early childhood education, highly effective teachers, well-funded instructional materials and a college preparatory curriculum. All students must have equitable access to key educational resources if they are to have equitable opportunities for success.

Key Research Findings: North Carolina is one of a group of states with low graduation rates, a high percentage of students from disadvantaged groups and comparatively low funding for instruction.

Opportunity for Success

Native American, Asian American, Black, Latino and low-income students are more likely than all White, non-Latino students in North Carolina to be disadvantaged by attending schools where they have little chance of becoming proficient in basic skills and graduating on time. The state’s Native American students are particularly disadvantaged in this regard.

Dividing the percentages of Native American, Black and Latino students in these “drop-out factories” by the percentage of White, non-Latino students in those schools gives us the comparative disadvantage of each group: (Higher numbers are worse: more of a disadvantage)

Group Comparative Disadvantage
Native American students 550%         
Asian American students* 130%         
Black, non-Latino students 250%         
Latino students 190%         
Low income students 220%        
Comparison is to all White, non-Latino students 100%         

Taking steps to improve access to key resources, improving the teacher-to-student ratio and increasing the percentage of highly effective teachers in the state’s less effective schools will improve the Opportunity to Learn of the state’s minority and low-income students.

Economic Consequences(8)

Total Annual Economic Burden to Taxpayers Because of Inequity: $2.2 billion(9)

Potential Return on School Improvement Investment:
(Differences attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)
State Annual Total Lifetime Health Loss
$427 million
State Annual Crime-Related Loss

$280 million

State Tax Losses (Lifetime)
$1.5 billion
Annual Lost Lifetime Earnings
(Difference attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)
$3 billion
Net Annual Potential Revenue Increase from Equity
(After deducting estimated cost of improving schools)
$1.3 billion

Social and Civic Consequences

Changes attributable to educational equalization with highest performing large group:

College Graduation (25 years of age+)(10)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  Black, Latino, Native American (total) 99%
Employment (11)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  With High School Diploma 3%
  Further Increase with Bachelor's Degree 4%
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  With High School Diploma 38%
  Further Increase with Bachelor's Degree 52%
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
  Black, non-Latino 22%
  Latino 48%
Civic Engagement(14) (National Election Participation)
  Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access 4%
Decrease Expected Attributable to Equitable Access to Education
  Black, non-Latino -73%

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* Performance for sub-groups of the Asian American populations (Hmong, Cambodian, etc.) varies drastically. Further federal and state disaggregation of data is needed to more accurately speak to performance results of Asian Americans.

(1) Enrollments (2005/6): Native American (20,463), Asian American (29,812), Black, non-Latino (446,279), Latino (118,505), White, non-Latino (801,377), FARL (603,316).
(2) Students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. This measure is similar to the children living in poverty: Native American (32%), Asian American (13%), Black, non-Latino (36%), Latino (33%), White, non-Latino (13%).
(3) The NAEP percentage of all public school students scoring at or above proficiency for Grade 8 Reading is used as a proxy for system quality.
(4) Access for 4-year-olds: NIEER Yearbook.
(5) Ratio of disadvantaged to advantaged student access: State Consolidated Performance Reports for School Year 2004/5 in Peske, Heather G. and Kati Haycock: Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality. The Education Trust, June 2006.
(6) NCES.
(7) Access to AP Math; USED/OCR.
(8) Earnings and Revenue: Levin, Henry. The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Students. Columbia University, January 2007.
(9) Numbers are rounded.
(10) U.S. Census, American Community Survey (ACS), 2006.
(11) ACS.
(12) ACS.
(13) National Survey of Children’s Health, Indicator 6.1.
(14) Potential Civic Engagement is represented by national voting rates by educational attainment applied to adult educational attainment of the state. U.S. Census Bureau. Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004; American Community Survey, Educational Attainment Adult Population. 2004 Voting Turnout Rate from United States Election Project:
(15) Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Education and Correctional Populations, January 2003.