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CCSD says chronic absenteeism rate close to 40 percent

Updated August 25, 2022 - 10:24 pm

The Clark County School District provided another update Thursday on its efforts to address the issue of students who are chronically missing classes.

The state defines chronically absent students as those who are absent for 10 percent or more of their enrolled days.

In May, the district reported that 39 percent of its students had been chronically absent as of March.

New numbers from the district show that closer to 40 percent of students were chronically absent last school year, a rate more than double the projected target it had hoped to see.

Those numbers are not yet validated per the Nevada Department of Education but will be validated by Sept. 15, according to the district’s chief college, career, equity and school choice officer Mike Barton, but he said the district is not expecting big shifts in the data.

The district saw chronic absenteeism increase among all of its student demographic groups, but African American students, students with an Individualized Education Program, and Native American/Alaska Native students experience chronic absenteeism at a higher rate than their peers, according to district documents.

It’s also a problem that predates the pandemic. During the 2015-16 school year, the U.S. Department of Education found that more than 7 million students across the country, or about 1 in 6 students, missed 15 or more days of school.

Research shows that students who are chronically absent can experience lower achievement in reading and math and that chronic absenteeism can be a predictor of whether students will drop out of school altogether.

Superintendent Jesus Jara, in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal this month, said the district was pursuing partnerships that will help it identify schools where students are chronically absent and help families who may be experiencing challenges at home.

As quarantine rules have required that students isolate or quarantine at home after contracting or being exposed to COVID-19, one challenge is that schools are no longer able to celebrate perfect attendance among students, he said.

“Now when kids are sick, we ask them to stay home,” he said. “That’s a little bit of a double-edged sword when you look at chronic absenteeism.”

What is the district planning?

In a presentation last month, the district said it was working to identify why students are missing school, holding focus groups with students to gauge how it can improve attendance, and using outside partners to address the problem.

One of those efforts is a new partnership called the Chronic Absenteeism Collaborative, in which the district will share data on students who are chronically absent with Clark County to provide more resources and interventions to those students.

The district approved its agreement with the county at the school district’s last board meeting on Aug. 11.

In a description of its collaboration with the county, the district cited health problems, housing instability and child care issues as common reasons that students might miss school.

“As a result of many of the circumstances that contribute to poor attendance, youth who do not attend school are escalating within multiple social service systems,” they wrote.

Under the partnership, the county will be able to access information about students who have been referred to the district’s Truancy Prevention Outreach Program or siblings of students enrolled in the program.

The district and the county will develop a comprehensive plan and a “tiered response system” to provide services for chronically absent students.

The county also will prepare an annual report of its outcomes and goals.

The partnership is expected to run through Aug. 12, 2027.

Barton said it would take the district time to come back out of the numbers it was seeing related to chronic absenteeism and get to the trajectory where the numbers were before the pandemic.

“It may take more effort, more time this year, more partnerships, to ensure that we’re really seeing those numbers that we want to see as a board,” he said.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lolonghi on Twitter.

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