State Board members met recently on the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University for their biannual planning and work session. Over a day and a half, members heard a number of presentations including those on local district whole-child pilot programs, cross-divisional efforts at the department to support low-performing schools, building equity into the education system, and credit recovery.
One of the presentations that received significant discussion focused on chronic absenteeism. According to the Office of Civil Rights, during the 2013-14 academic school year, 207,837 North Carolina students missed 15 days or more of school accounting for approximately 14 percent of the state’s student population.
Chronic absenteeism is a significant problem that impacts all school levels in the educational system. Historically, chronic absenteeism and the ensuing discussion focused at the high school level, specifically ninth grade.
Even though chronic absenteeism among ninth graders is the top predictor for on-time high school graduation, research consistently indicates that adverse effects of chronic absenteeism begin before students enter kindergarten.
From a national perspective, chronic absenteeism impacts multiple layers of the educational system and community.
Chronically absent students face adverse life outcomes such as economic hardship, employment difficulties, less stable career patterns and higher rates of unemployment. Students who are identified as chronically absent are more likely to drop out of school.
Additionally, according to the Washington State Center for Court Research, 50 percent of all truants ended up with a criminal charge by age 18, compared to 12 percent of non-truant students. This is due to a high percentage of chronically absent students being unsupervised during the school day. North Carolina has an opportunity to create actionable steps to address chronic absenteeism across the grades beginning with establishing a common definition.
Other recommendations include tracking chronic absenteeism at the school, district, region and state levels, and providing actionable steps for addressing chronic absenteeism, including strengthening school and community resources, such as developing early warning systems, creating preventive measures, and ensuring families have access to needed community resources.
From the robust discussions that followed the various presentations, Board members revised and approved their Strategic Plan. State Board Chairman Bill Cobey said the ability to meet the revised goals would depend in large part on the staffing and resources at the state agency.