Yesterday we wrote about Washington’s high chronic absenteeism in public schools.
A Seattle Times story today provides some additional perspective. Education reporter John Higgins writes:
Washington state had the second highest [absenteeism rate], nearly 25 percent, according to AP.
But the national figures are much higher than the state’s own data for the same year — which was nearly 15 percent — or for the 2014-2015 school year, which was 16 percent.
“I have a hard time believing that our kids are that much more absent than other states,” said Dixie Grunenfelder, director of secondary education for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “It’s not like we don’t have issues, but I would have more faith in our data at the state level than that data.”
One reason for the discrepancy is that Washington state doesn’t count students as habitually absent until they’ve missed 18 days — 10 percent of a 180-day school year — which is in line with research showing that kids who miss more than 10 percent of school are more likely to drop out.
The U.S. education department used a 15 day cutoff. Grunenfelder also says she suspects inconsistencies in the definition of absenteeism across the country, noting that in Washington students who miss class for sports are counted as absent.
So Washington may not have the second highest rate in the nation, but even the state’s own 16 percent calculation suggests problems. And it certainly contributes to the low graduation rate.