Kidsdata.org offers the following measures:
- Truant Students: The number and percent
of K-12 public school students who missed more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three
or more times during the school year. This measure does not
include students considered chronically truant (i.e., students whose
unexcused and excused absences total 10% or more of all school days in a year).
- Truant Students (Self-Reported): The percentage of students in grades 7, 9, and 11, and non-traditional students, reporting whether in the past 12 months they had skipped school or cut class, by grade level, gender and grade level, level of connectedness to school, and race/ethnicity.
- Suspensions from School: The number and rate of suspensions per 100 K-12 public school students. Students may be counted more than once if they were suspended multiple times.
- Expulsions from School: The number and percent of expulsions among K-12 public school students.
Truant Students, Suspensions from School, and Expulsions from School come from the California Department of Education's DataQuest site. Truant Students (Self-Reported) comes from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) through a partnership with WestEd and the California Department of Education.
"Non-traditional" students are those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education. According to EdSource, nearly 10% of public school students in California are enrolled in these programs.
Regular school attendance is a predictor of academic success. Conversely, frequent absences are related to negative outcomes, such as dropping out of high school, which can have lifelong effects on employment and earning potential (1, 2). A child might miss school for many reasons, including health problems or other excused absences, unexcused absences (truancy), and exclusionary punishments (suspensions and expulsions).
Research shows that suspensions and expulsions can exacerbate student academic problems, amplify the achievement gap between low-income children and their higher-income peers, and contribute to student involvement in the juvenile justice system (3). Suspensions and expulsions disproportionately affect students of color, students with disabilities, students in foster care, and non-heterosexual youth (4, 5, 6). In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million U.S. students were suspended and 102,000 were expelled. That year, California’s suspension and expulsion rates were the 12th and 10th highest in the nation, respectively (7).
For more information on truancy, suspensions, & expulsions, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Child Trends. (2010). Student absenteeism. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/252
2. Aud, S., Fox, M. A., & KewalRamani, A. (2010). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups. (NCES 2010-015). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2010/2010015/intro.asp
3. Dufresne, A., et al. (2010). Teaching discipline: A toolkit for educators on positive alternatives to out-of-school suspensions. New Haven, CT: Connecticut Voices for Children. Retrieved from: http://www.ctkidslink.org/pub_detail_515.html
4. Losen, D. J. (2011). Discipline policies, successful schools, and racial justice. Boulder, CO: Discipline in Schools Campaign, National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/discipline-policies
5. Leone, P., & Weinberg, L. (2010). Addressing the unmet educational needs of children and youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Washington, DC: Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Georgetown University. Retrieved from: http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/260
6. Himmelstein, K., & Brückner, H. (2011). Criminal-justice and school sanctions against nonheterosexual youth: A national longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 127(1), 53. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/12/06/peds.2009-2306.abstract
7. Dignity in Schools Campaign. (n.d.). State fact sheets on school pushout: California. Retrieved from: http://www.dignityinschools.org/sites/default/files/California%20Pushout%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
Policies that help schools document absenteeism and truancy early, identify patterns, and then intervene appropriately can ameliorate the negative effects of children missing school (e.g. lowered achievement and school engagement) and potentially address root causes (e.g. problems at home, in the community or in the classroom) (1, 2). School policies that remove children from school also affect their learning and future. School suspensions and expulsions have increased with adoption of “zero tolerance” discipline policies designed to combat school violence and other transgressions, ranging from drug possession to dress code violations (5). While removing disruptive or dangerous students can improve school climate for all students, suspensions/expulsions can result in a loss of instructional time and school engagement for the disciplined students or can push them out of school altogether. Researchers have documented significant disparate disciplinary treatment of African American/Black and Latino students as compared to others (5).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could reduce chronic truancy and ensure that discipline is both equitable and effective include:
- Uncovering and flagging chronic absenteeism (including excused or unexcused absences) early in elementary and middle school through specific data reporting at the individual, classroom, and school levels, which can lead to targeted intervention (3, 4)
- Developing more tailored and engaging instruction, recognizing and promoting good attendance, and providing individualized and supportive attention from adults, which can help keep students coming to school (4, 5)
- Collecting data at the school and district levels on the prevalence of suspensions and expulsions by student racial/ethnic background, and data on the effectiveness of school discipline policies and their impact on learning (6)
- Addressing discriminatory discipline policies through administrative or legal enforcement (5)
- Supporting use of alternative school discipline approaches that promote good behavior and minimize loss of learning time; these can include restorative justice strategies, which focus on repair of harm and prevention of re-occurrence through grounding in respect, personal responsibility, and relationship-building (6, 7)
For more policy ideas about Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit Attendance Works, the National Center for School Engagement, and the Dignity in Schools Campaign.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Gottfried, M. A. (2009). Evaluating the relationship between student attendance and achievement in urban middle and high schools: An instrumental variables approach. American Education Research Journal OnlineFirst. Retrieved from: http://aer.sagepub.com/content/47/2/434.abstract
2. Heilbrunn, J. Z. (2007). Pieces of the truancy jigsaw: A literature review. National Center for School Engagement. Retrieved from: http://www.schoolengagement.org/TruancypreventionRegistry/Admin/Resources/Resources/PiecesoftheTruancyJigsawALiteratureReview.pdf
3. Chang, H. N., & Romero, M. (2008). Present, engaged, and accounted for: The critical importance of addressing chronic absence in the early grades. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_837.pdf
4. Balfanz, R., Herzog, L., & Mac Iver, D. J. (2007). Preventing student disengagement and keeping students on the graduation path in urban middle-grades schools: Early identification and effective interventions. Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 223-235. Retrieved from: http://web.jhu.edu/bin/q/b/PreventingStudentDisengagement.pdf
5. U.S. Department of Justice. (n.d.). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention model program guides: Truancy. Retrieved from: http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/progTypesTruancy.aspx
6. Losen, D. J., & Skiba, R. J. (2010). Suspended education: Urban middle schools in crisis. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from: http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/school-discipline/suspended-education-urban-middle-schools-in-crisis/Suspended-Education_FINAL-2.pdf
7. Sumner, M. D., Silverman, C. J., & Frampton, M. L. (2010). School-based restorative justice as an alternative to zero-tolerance policies: Lessons from West Oakland. University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Retrieved from: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/11-2010_School-based_Restorative_Justice_As_an_Alternative_to_Zero-Tolerance_Policies.pdf
In 2011, more than 1.8 million public school students in California, 29.8% of all public school students that year, were truant (i.e., they missed more than 30 minutes of school instruction without an excuse three or more times during the year). The percentage of truant students in 2011 has risen 32% since 2005.
In 2008-10, about 8% of 7th graders, 18% of 9th graders, and 29% of 11th graders in California reported that they had skipped school or cut class in the past year. Students who felt less connected to their schools more often reported skipping school or cutting class.
More than 700,000 students were suspended (11.4 per every 100 students) and over 18,000 students (0.3%) were expelled in California in 2011. While the percentage of expelled students has remained fairly steady in recent years, the suspension rate declined between 2008 and 2011.