Chronic absenteeism in Connecticut schools declined overall between 2011-12 and 2014-15, but increased among African American students, according to data from the State Department of Education (SDE). In the four-year period, chronic absenteeism among white students dropped statewide from 8.1 percent to 7 percent, among Hispanics from 18.4 percent to 18 percent and among Asians from 7 percent to 6.1 percent. Hispanic students had the highest chronic absenteeism rate all four years.
Among African American students, the percentage of students chronically absent climbed from 15.2 percent in 2011-12 to 16.1 percent in 2014-15.
Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent, or more, of school days for any reason, including excused, unexcused and disciplinary absences. The statistics are included in the Connecticut Department of Education’s new data website, www.edsight.ct.gov
Chronic absenteeism is declining among both male and female students, with males maintaining a slightly higher percentage (one-tenth of one percent) in the 2011-12 and 2014-15 school years as both rates declined.
While English-Language-Learners had a consistently higher percentage of chronic absenteeism than non-English Language Learners, the percentage was dropped at a higher rate, one percentage point versus four-tenths of a point.
The only other sub-category of students to see a higher percentage of chronically absent students when comparing the 2001-12 and 2014-15 school years, in addition to African American students, was Special Education students, according to the data. In 2011-12, 18.6 percent of special education students were chronically absent. By 2014-15 the percentage was 19 percent, which was, however, lower than the two previous years (19.4 percent and 19.1 percent).
Overall in Connecticut, the chronic absenteeism rate dropped from 11.1 percent in 2011-12 to 10.6 percent in 2014-15. The State Department of Education website explains that “improving and sustaining good attendance requires the active engagement of district and school-based leaders and administrators along with a clear articulation of roles and responsibilities.”
In comprehensive guidance provided to local school districts nearly three years ago, the state Department of Education explained that “chronic absenteeism is also emerging as an early indicator of future academic difficulty. Children who are chronically absent in both kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade.”
The guidelines also indicated that “If chronic early absence is not addressed at the elementary level, then it may worsen in the higher grades (Chang and Romero, 2008). By sixth grade, chronic absence is a key early indicator of dropout from high school (Baltimore Education Research Consortium, 2011). By ninth grade, attendance may be a better indicator of dropout than eighth-grade test scores (Allensworth and Easton, 2007).”
The 17 pages of guidelines, which outline how various absences are defined, documented and prevented in accordance with “nationally recognized best practices,” aimed to serve “as a valuable resource to help decrease rates of chronic absenteeism and enhance student outcomes,” former commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a memo to school superintendents and principals in May 2013.
Public Act 15-225, passed by the legislature a year ago, requires schools to track and publish chronic absenteeism data. Schools and districts that exhibit a certain percent of chronic student absenteeism must institute Student Attendance Review Teams (or use an existing body for this purpose), to coordinate interventions for students who are chronically absent. The legislation requires SDE to help develop prevention and intervention plans for districts in tackling chronic absenteeism.