One district's data error skews national chronic absenteeism rate for black students
- A mistake in the way Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland reported its chronic absenteeism rate to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) affected overall national rates for black students in a report released in August.
- Instead of 80% of the district’s students being chronically absent, the district’s rate is 29%, which changed Maryland’s ranking in the report — “Data Matters: Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success” — from the state with the highest overall rate to the 10th highest in the nation, leaders from Attendance Works, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution said in a press release Tuesday.
- In a blog post, the report's authors said they did not verify the data that districts submitted to OCR. “In part, this was a deliberate choice to allow those using the materials to question whether the information provided to the Department of Education was correct,” they wrote.
Even honest mistakes in data reporting related to attendance now have greater consequences under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law requires all states to track this data, and most states are using chronic absenteeism rates as one measure of whether or not districts are making progress — and reporting this data to parents and the public.
The Maryland example provides some lessons about how states can provide districts with guidance related to data accuracy, Hedy N. Chang of Attendance Works, Lauren Bauer of the Hamilton Project and Vaughan Byrnes from Johns Hopkins wrote in the post.
“We believe state education agencies can prevent data errors as much as possible by offering guidance around data definitions, data collection, and reporting, and including tips for reviewing data for accuracy prior to submission,” they wrote. “When mistakes occur, it is important to provide opportunities for schools and districts to submit corrections.”
The report and the Hamilton Project's interactive data map have since been updated to reflect accurate data.
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