The federal Department of Education ranks Nevada among the worst states when it comes to students missing school. Some 18.1 percent of the state’s school-aged population failed to attend class 15 days or more during the 2013-14 academic year, the government reports.
That leaves the Silver State with the eighth worst rate of chronic school absenteeism in the country.
Clark County’s figures were slightly higher than the state as a whole. Nearly 19 percent of district students missed at least three weeks of class in 2013-14. At Desert Pines High School, the number was an astonishing 49.3 percent.
The problems associated with absentee children are obvious. “If students aren’t in school, one they’re not learning,” said Matt Henne, a former district official. “And two, many times they’re out doing things they shouldn’t.”
Schools across the country and locally have experimented with a number of tactics to encourage higher attendance, some even offering prizes and holding raffles. But the sheer size of the Clark County School District — the nation’s fifth largest — heightens the challenges.
Perhaps the most promising solution lies in the “empowerment school” model, which gives principles more autonomy to enact policies that reflect the unique conditions of each campus. State lawmakers have moved to implement the empowerment approach in Clark County beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
The change offers a step forward on many fronts, including attendance.