More than 23 percent of California elementary school students were truant in 2014-15, with at least three unexcused absences, while about 230,000 of them were chronically absent, missing more than 10 percent of the school year, according to a report released in Los Angeles today by Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The persistent attendance problems continue to be financially costly for school districts, which lose funding when attendance drops. According to the report, Los Angeles County districts lost out on more than $232 million in 2014-15 due to truant elementary students.
“Elementary school truancy has sweeping implications for our state’s economy and public safety,” Harris said. “When our youngest students are missing more than 10 percent of the school year, we know that they often fall behind and never catch up. This report shows that we are making progress, but we must do more to keep our children in school.”
The report found that the elementary truancy rate was 21.3 percent in 2012-13 and 23.2 percent in 2013-14. The rate increased to 23.8 percent in 2014-15.
Researchers suggested, however, that the increasing rate may be the result of better reporting of absences by school districts as opposed to an actual rise in unexcused absences.
Harris said, however, the figures still raise concerns about the number of students missing school—and the racial disparities among chronically absent students.
According to the report, nearly 15 percent of California kindergarten students are chronically absent, but chronic absenteeism was nearly 30 percent for Black and Native American kindergarteners. The report noted that 83 percent of students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade will not be able to read proficiently in third grade and will be four times more likely to drop out of high school.
Harris said almost all of the state’s school districts have changed policies and programs aimed at improving attendance, or they plan to do so in the coming year.