While the state of Washington saw chronic absenteeism rates creep upward in the 2015-2016 school years, some local districts bucked that trend and improved their attendance.
One district, Vancouver Public Schools, has seen its chronic absenteeism rate steadily decline since 2013.
Statewide, an average of 16.7 percent of students were chronically absent, according to the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office. That means kids missed 10 percent or more of their school days. That comes out to 18 days in a year or two days a month.
That’s up slightly from last year’s 16.4 percent.
Clark County districts, meanwhile, averaged a chronic absenteeism rate of 14.8 percent, up from last year’s 13.3 percent. But Battle Ground Public Schools, Hockinson School District, Ridgefield School District and Vancouver Public Schools all saw their rates decline in the past year.
School attendance plays a significant role in student success, OSPI said in a news release. Students chronically absent in kindergarten are considerably less likely to be able to read at a third-grade reading level by the time they’re in that grade, and chronically absent ninth graders are much more likely to fail a core course and much more likely not to graduate high school.
While other districts’ absenteeism rates have fluctuated since 2013, Vancouver Public Schools has consistently seen its rate drop. In the 2015-2016 school year, the district had a 17.2 percent chronic absenteeism rate, down from the previous year’s 18.8 in 2014-2015, 19.4 in 2013-2014 and 20.1 in 2013.
Kym Tyelyn-Carlson, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning, said those numbers reflect work by the school to identify why students aren’t coming to school. Whether that’s due to transportation issues, homelessness, hunger or other challenges, Tyelyn-Carlson said schools work with students and families through campus Family and Community Resource Centers to provide them with what they need to attend school.
“We’re working … to remove those kinds of barriers,” Tyelyn-Carlson said.
Schools are also taking simpler steps to highlight student attendance, she said, like signboards in front of campuses showing the school’s attendance goals and actual attendance.
“We are being very, very direct in making sure the parents and kids know how important it is to be in school,” she said.