Study says PUSD truancy rate has increased to an alarming 66 percent
By André Coleman 10/03/2013
Pasadena Unified School District truancy rates have reached an alarming level, according to a study by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
According to the study, 66 percent of all PUSD students were truant in 2011-12, up from 17 percent in 2008-09. The numbers were first reported in the Los Angeles Times, which also reported that one out of every four students across the state was truant in 2011-12. The Times called the situation an “attendance crisis.”
Last week, PUSD initiated the “I’m In” program in which district workers and local officials went door to door looking for information on truant students and school-age children who had not attended school since the semester began last month.
Absences have cost LA county schools $340 million in average daily attendance funds, which the state allocates to public schools to educate children, according to the study. The funds are based on how many students attend school each day.
Three elementary schools in Pasadena had truancy rates of more than 90 percent in 2011-12 according to the study.
During that time, 90.9 percent of the students attending Cleveland, 90.5 percent of the students at San Rafael and 90.4 percent from Altadena elementary schools were truant, according to the study.
District 1 School Board member Kim Kenne told the Weekly that she was concerned about the reporting process.
“At this point, I believe the board needs to ask staff and help us understand these numbers,” said Kenne, whose district includes Altadena Elementary School.
Cleveland Elementary is represented by District 3 Board member Tyron Hampton. San Raphael Elementary in District 7 is represented by Board member Scott Phelps. Neither Hampton nor Phelps returned phone calls seeking comment on this story.
School Board President Renatta Cooper said she was not sure if the data is accurate.
“I don’t think the percentage is accurate of San Raphael,” Cooper said.
“I think we have some data entry problems. Notes and things are not being credited and sometimes not being requested. I think many other districts have these problems. We need board support for the data to be cleaned up so we are not carrying students on our rolls that have left the district.”
In California, truancy is defined as an unexcused absence for any reason other than illness, quarantine, death related, court related, or observance of a religious holiday or ceremony.
According to the Kenne, the district recently began reporting school attendance to the state using the California Logitudinal Peoples Achievement Data System (CALPADS).
The school district is in part funded based on the number of students attending classes, or Average Daily Attendance (ADA), and loses money if children do not attend. The district receives about $6,000 per student. A 1 percent decrease in the district’s annual attendance rate would mean a loss of $888,000 in funding from the state.
Later this month, the district will begin using Attention to Attendance (A2A), a program which monitors absences and automatically generates letters to parents if students are truant three times, or if they are more than 30 minutes late to school or class, or have excessive unexcused absences.