Tulare County students sit near front of attendance rates

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Tulare County’s chronic absenteeism rate is 12the lowest in the state, better than neighboring counties

By Reggie Ellis
@Reggie_SGN

SACRAMENTO — Last month the Sun-Gazette reported Tulare County high schools are graduating students at a higher rate than the state. Part of the reason is simple – they show up for class.

Now a month into the school year, the Sun-Gazette decided to look at attendance rates in local school districts during September, recognized as Attendance Awareness Month, and found that Tulare County school districts lowest rates of chronic absenteeism in the Valley and across the state. Students are determined to be chronically absent if they were enrolled for at least 30 days during the academic year and they were absent for 10% or more of the days they were expected to attend. Most school years consist of about 175 days, so chronically absent students would have to miss more than 17 days, or a month of school.

Tulare County’s rate was just 9.8%, the lowest among neighboring counties, lower than the state average of 10.8% and the 12th best in the state. Rockford Elementary, a single school district near Porterville, had the lowest possible rate of 0%. Of the 329 students attending the rural school, not one of them missed 10% of the school days during the 2016-17 school year. Equally impressive was Sundale Elementary, which has 853 students and a rate of just 1.5%.

The highest rate was 16.6% at Allensworth Elementary. Alpaugh Unified had the highest rate among unified school districts at 16.6%, even after removing continuation high schools and alternative education sites from the equation. Culter-Orosi had the lowest rate among unified school districts at 6.12%.

Among continuation high schools or alternative education sites, Bravo Lake High School in Woodlake had the lowest rate of chronic absences at 48.4%. Kaweah High School in Exeter and Lovell High School in Orosi was a close second with 50% and 51.3%, respectively. Visalia’s Sequoia High School and Tulare’s Sierra Vista were the worst with 75.7% and 68.5%. Tule High School in Alpaugh did not have enough students to qualify for the statistic due to privacy laws.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said school districts, public agencies, community groups, students, and their families must work together to combat chronic absenteeism.

“Students aren’t learning if they are not in class. Cohesive partnerships, intervention strategies, and solid support services create attendance teams that are armed with the necessary tools to identify and help students struggling with attendance problems,” said Torlakson. “By combining resources and working together, school attendance administrators, parents, and community organizations can build systems to reduce chronic absenteeism rates that are positive and effective, not negative and punitive.”

In 2017, for the first time, the California Department of Education (CDE) began collecting chronic absenteeism rates in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). That data is now available in CDE’s DataQuest system and shows which schools and districts have had high rates of chronic absenteeism and which student groups are likely to require the most resources and interventions.

The data is also included in the California School Dashboard by student groups as one of the multiple measures of progress that parents, teachers, administrators, and community members can use to evaluate their schools and districts.

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