- The Detroit Public Schools Community District, which has the highest absenteeism rate in the nation, is looking at new ways to gather and use data to pinpoint problems and address issues that are keeping students out of school, EdSurge reports.
- The school is changing its data collection model and focusing on changing practices that are keeping students from school, such as government decisions regarding school closures, transportation issues, high suspension rates, and access to washers and dryers.
- Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, is also hosting “data chats” with school principals and focusing on changing the “culture of fear” among school leaders so that data collection is more consistent and accurate, a necessary step to fixing the problems.
In the 2013-14 school year, the national average for chronic absenteeism was 13%, or about 6.5 million students, according to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. Chronic absenteeism affects not only students' lives, but increasingly affects schools' test scores and graduation rates. And since many states are now using absenteeism as an accountability measure under new Every Student Succeeds Act, the impact on individual school districts will be even greater in the future.
Some factors contributing to absenteeism are beyond a school's immediate control, such as medical issues and increase in opioid addiction. Emotional issues, such as the effects of bullying and anxiety, are other issues that can keep students out pf school. In some families, practical concerns, such as transportation issues, lack of clean clothing and caring for younger siblings or sick relatives also play a role.
Some schools have launched targeted programs such as the My Brother's Keeper Success Mentors Initiative to connect to students on a personal level and deal with issues that are keeping them from school. Others are using incentives to make school attendance more of a priority in the lives of students and their families. However, if schools are to begin to see improvement in attendance, either alone or in partnership with other agencies, they need to know where the issues lie. And accurate, unvarnished data collection is the key to unlocking these issues.