A new tool just showed up in the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission’s web site that you will find really interesting. It is an interactive state map that allows you to click on a local school district and see its average rate of school chronic absenteeism (CA) between 2012 and 2016 (Note: be patient – this loads a little slowly).
According to a new report from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, “School Attendance in Kentucky,” chronic absenteeism is generally considered as “missing (school) 10 percent or more of time. This could be met by missing ten percent of days enrolled or missing 10 percent of each day enrolled (Page vii).”
Jefferson County, for example, has a chronic absenteeism rate of 20.05 percent. That’s more than one in five kids missing far too much school.
In fact, the LRC’s report says, “Kentucky’s highest rates of CA are concentrated in eastern Kentucky and in Jefferson County (Page viii).” A good example is Clay County, where the interactive map shows the CA rate is a staggering 41.24 percent! I suspect that weather and busing issues play a role here, but the numbers of students missing too much school is still astronomically high.
One school district near the other end of the spectrum, Fort Thomas Independent, has a rate of only 3.94 percent. Another district I didn’t locate has a rate of only 2.30 percent according to the color scale at the bottom of the map.
A few other “zingers” in the LRC report:
Kentucky To Its Surrounding States. Compared to Kentucky’s seven surrounding states, Kentucky has the second highest rate of CA overall (3rd for elementary, 2nd for middle, and 1st in high school).
Chronic Absenteeism Rates By Demographic Group. When comparing CA rates between race/ethnicities, black students have the highest rates, followed by white students, Hispanic students, and students of other races/ethnicities. Students receiving free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) have a higher rate of CA compared to non-FRPL students.
Attendance Rates Can Obscure Chronic Absenteeism. Attendance rates can sometimes obscure the CA of individual students within schools leading to schools with similar attendance rates experiencing substantially different CA rates.
Chronic Absenteeism in Elementary Schools. For K-5 students, CA is highest for students who are in kindergarten and 1st grade. Compared to other levels, elementary schools, on average, experience the lowest rates of chronic absenteeism; however, within elementary schools rates vary between grades. In 2016, 3rd graders had the lowest rate of chronic absenteeism for all grades at 8.5 percent. Kindergarteners had a rate of 14.7 percent during the same school year, while 1st graders had a rate of 11.1 percent.
The bottom line is that kids with unexcused absences from school almost certainly are not learning. Kids with a lot of absences are especially at risk. And, finally, a whole lot more kids than you might suspect are missing far too much school.