Attendance report pushes to keep schools accountable for chronic absenteeism

Illinois now has a five-hour minimum rule to count attendance in most cases. (Photo courtesy: Pixabay)

By Illinois Radio Network

SPRINGFIELD – A state commission recommended Illinois continue to keep student attendance as a factor in determining school success despite concerns from some who have said its an unfair metric.

The Illinois State Board of Education’s Attendance Commission report pushed back against suggestions that the state scrap chronic absenteeism as one of the ways schools are rated and consequently awarded funding.

“The overall chronic absence rate in Illinois was 18 percent during the most recent completed school year, 2018-2019,” the report said. “That means that 360,000 students in our state missed 10 percent or more of their school days.”

ISBE began tracking chronic absenteeism – when a student misses more than 10 percent of education time – in 2018, but some have criticized its inclusion in the state’s school funding formula. They, according to the report, have said that some factors of chronic absenteeism are out of their hands.

“The big first step is to figure out why our kids are missing school and then you go to ‘what can we do to turn that around?’” said Phyllis Jordan, editorial director for FutureEd, a Georgetown University think tank. “Schools have a lot of control.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a requirement into law mandating a 5-hour minimum requirement for traditional public schools to count a child as present.

Truancy doesn’t just affect the missing student. Jordan said studies have shown the whole class loses instructional time when the teacher is forced to backtrack.

“When other children are absent a lot in a classroom, even the kids who show up are not learning as much,” she said.

The commission said the state should monitor the 5-hour requirement to see if it’s an adequate bar to show attendance. Set the limit too high and showing up late to a class could get a student labeled as absent for the day. But Jordan said setting the bar too low, like California, allows a student to leave after attending for a short time in the morning and still be counted.

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