About 18 percent of Fresno Unified students are chronically absent – meaning more than 13,000 students in the district missed at least 15 days during the 2013-14 school year.
Expansive absenteeism data was released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the first time ever, tracking students who frequently miss class at nearly every public school in the U.S.
Nationally, 13 percent of all students are considered chronically absent. Those numbers are higher for minorities, with 20 percent of Latino high schoolers labeled chronically absent, and 22 percent of black students.
About 12 percent of students at Clovis Unified are chronically absent; in Central Unified, it’s 13 percent; 10 percent at Sanger Unified; and 12 percent at Fowler Unified.
13,482Fresno Unified students missed at least 15 days of class
The White House also announced Wednesday that Fresno will become one of 30 cities to participate in a new initiative from My Brother’s Keeper, which aims to reduce absenteeism by connecting at-risk students with caring mentors.
Of Fresno Unified’s high schools, McLane has the most chronic absences, with about 33 percent of students missing 15 days or more in 2013-14. Clovis High had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism in Clovis Unified’s high schools, with about 21 percent.
Fresno County had among the highest elementary school truancy rates in California, according to a report released last year by the state Attorney General’s Office. Those absences resulted in a loss of more than $51 million in state funding for Fresno County schools in 2014, since funding is tied to average daily attendance.
The attorney general’s report only tracked student attendance up to fifth grade. California is among a handful of states that doesn’t track student attendance in its statewide records systems. The data released Wednesday is from a mandatory survey of U.S. public schools conducted by the Office of Civil Rights every two years, but this was the first time student absenteeism rates were collected.
Nearly 42,500 Fresno Unified students – more than half of the student body – were considered truant in the 2013-14 school year, meaning they had at least three unexcused absences or were at least 30 minutes tardy three times.
Valley schools have upped efforts to curb absenteeism in recent years, with 10 districts in the county hosting truancy intervention programs. Last year, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office announced a new Attendance Matters program for Fresno Unified schools, where elementary schools conduct meetings with parents to focus on the legal consequences of not sending their children to school.
Also last year, Fresno Unified hired 20 child welfare and attendance specialists who are based at the most at-risk elementary schools. The specialists make home visits and stay in constant contact with families to make sure students get to class.
More information from the Associated Press analysis of the Department of Education data can be found here.