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- Definition: Number of K-12 public school students reported as being truant at least once during the school year (e.g., in 2015, 2,017,244 California students were reported as being truant at least once during the school year).Number of K-12 public school students reported as being truant at least once during the school year per 100 students (e.g., in 2015, 31.4 per 100 California students were reported as being truant at least once during the school year).
- Data Source: California Dept. of Education, DataQuest (Jun. 2016).
- Footnote: Per Education Code Section 48260, a truant student is defined as "a pupil subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education who is absent from school without a valid excuse three full days in one school year or tardy or absent for more than a 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof." Unexcused absences resulting from suspensions are not included in the truancy figures. Years presented are the final year of a school year (e.g., 2014-2015 is shown as 2015). Note that some schools have changed the methods used to record student attendance, which could lead to inconsistencies in the data. LNE (Low Number Event) refers to data that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 20 truant students. N/A means that data are not available.
- Measures of Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org offers the following measures:
* School connectedness is a summary measure based on student reports of being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of school, and feeling safe at school. Non-traditional students are those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education; according to Ed-Data, these schools make up about 10% of all public schools in California.
- Truant students: The number and rate of K-12 public school students who miss more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three or more times during a school year
- Truant students (student reported): The percentage of students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional students, reporting the number of times they skipped school or cut class in the past 12 months, by grade level, gender and grade level, race/ethnicity, and level of connectedness to school*
- Staff reports of the extent to which truancy or cutting class is a problem at school
- Suspensions from school: The unduplicated number and rate of suspensions among K-12 public school students
- Expulsions from school: The unduplicated number and rate of expulsions among K-12 public school students
- Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
- Bullying and Harassment at School
- Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Bullying/Harassment for Bias-Related Reason (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Disability as Reason for Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Gender as Reason for Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Race or National Origin as Reason for Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Religion as Reason for Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Sexual Orientation as Reason for Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Other Non-Specified Reason for Bullying/Harassment (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Cyberbullying (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Student Bullying/Harassment Is a Problem at School (Staff Reported)
- College Eligibility
- Child Population, by County
- Child Population, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Children in Rural and Urban Areas (California & U.S. Only)
- Public School Enrollment
- Total Population
- Community Connectedness
- Caring Adults in the Community (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- High Expectations from Adults in the Community (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Meaningful Participation in the Community (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Total Community Assets (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- High School Graduation
- Impact of Special Health Care Needs on Children & Families
- Math Proficiency
- Disconnected Youth
- Pupil Support Service Personnel
- Reading Proficiency
- School Connectedness
- Caring Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- High Expectations from Teachers and Others (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Meaningful Participation at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Total School Assets (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- School Connectedness (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Adults at School Believe in Student Success (Staff Reported)
- Caring Adults at School (Staff Reported)
- School Gives Students Opportunities to Make a Difference (Staff Reported)
- School Motivates Students to Learn (Staff Reported)
- Students Who Are Motivated to Learn (Staff Reported)
- Youth Development or Resilience Is Fostered at School (Staff Reported)
- School Safety
- Perceptions of School Safety (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Fear of Being Beaten Up at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Physical Fighting at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Carrying a Gun at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Carrying a Knife or Other Weapon at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Perceptions of School Safety for Students (Staff Reported)
- Perceptions of School Safety for Staff (Staff Reported)
- Student Physical Fighting Is a Problem at School (Staff Reported)
- Student Weapons Possession Is a Problem at School (Staff Reported)
- Why This Topic Is Important
Regular school attendance is a predictor of academic success (1). Frequent absences (excused or unexcused) are linked to negative school outcomes, including lower test scores and higher dropout rates, 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).
A growing body of research shows that students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to have academic problems, drop out of school, and enter the juvenile justice system (3, 4). In 2011-12, nearly 3.5 million K-12 public school students were suspended from school at least once in the U.S., resulting in a significant loss of classroom instruction time (4). Suspensions and expulsions disproportionately affect students of color (particularly African American boys), students with disabilities, and sexual minority youth (3, 4).For more information on truancy, suspensions, and expulsions, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Ginsburg, A., et al. (2014). Absences add up: How school attendance influences student success. Attendance Works. Retrieved from: http://www.attendanceworks.org/research/absences-add
2. Child Trends Databank. (2015). High school dropout rates. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=high-school-dropout-rates
3. Carter, P., et al. (2014). Discipline disparities series: Overview. The Equity Project at Indiana University. Retrieved from: http://rtpcollaborative.indiana.edu/briefing-papers
4. Losen, D., et al. (2015). Are we closing the school discipline gap? UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies. Retrieved from: https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/are-we-closing-the-school-discipline-gap
- How Children Are Faring
In 2015, more than 2 million public school students in California, almost one-third of all public school students, were truant (i.e., they missed more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three or more times during the school year). More than 243,000 students were suspended (3.8 per 100 students) and nearly 5,700 students were expelled (0.1 per 100 students) in California in 2015.
In 2011-13, 19% of 7th graders, 31% of 9th graders, and 47% of 11th graders in California reported that they had skipped school or cut class at least once in the past year, but most reported only skipping a few times; about 7% of 11th graders, 1 in 14, reported skipping once a week or more. Among California public middle school staff, 16% reported that skipping school or cutting class was a moderate or severe problem at their school, while that percentage was almost half (47%) among high school staff. Students who felt less connected to their schools more often reported skipping school or cutting class.
- Policy Implications
Frequent use of disciplinary removal from school is associated with higher student dropout and delinquency rates (1, 2). In fact, students who regularly miss school for any reason—unexcused or excused—are at increased risk for academic failure and dropping out (3). While disciplinary removal may be necessary at times, students often are removed for minor disruptions, and suspensions and expulsions do not result in safer schools, better student behavior, or improved academic performance (1, 4, 5). In addition, research has documented disparate disciplinary treatment of youth of color, students with disabilities, sexual minority youth, and other vulnerable groups (2, 6). In 2014, the U.S. government issued formal guidance urging school leaders to take immediate action to address school discipline disparities, and state and federal law now require use of alternatives to exclusionary discipline (5, 6).
While California has made progress in reducing suspensions and expulsions in recent years, much more work is needed to ensure that all schools, from preschool to high school, implement effective, equitable discipline policies and that all students have healthy learning environments (5, 7). In accordance with state and federal guidelines, many districts are turning to evidence-based strategies that focus on creating a positive school climate and providing students with the support they need to succeed (1, 5, 7). In addition, policies that help schools document absenteeism and truancy early, and intervene in non-punitive ways, can help reduce student absences and improve academic performance (1, 3, 8).
Policy options that could reduce truancy and excessive or disproportionate suspensions and expulsions include:
For more policy ideas about truancy, suspensions, and expulsions, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit Attendance Works and the Supportive School Discipline Communities of Practice. Also see Policy Implications under these kidsdata.org topics: School Connectedness, High School Graduation, and Bullying and Harassment at School.
- Ensuring that schools engage families and community partners to create positive school climates, which can help prevent problematic student behavior; such efforts should involve staff training, programs to build student social-emotional and conflict resolution skills, and systems to address student behavioral health or other needs, including early screening for disabilities (4, 5)
- Uncovering and flagging chronic absenteeism—both unexcused and excused—early in elementary and middle school by tracking individual student attendance in real-time and by collecting and publicly reporting absence data at the district, school, grade, and student subgroup levels (3, 8)
- Ensuring that schools and community partners use attendance data to reach out to parents early, before absences become chronic, to offer support and promote good attendance; also, creating formal collaborations (e.g., School Attendance Review Boards) among local agencies and service providers to engage hard-to-reach families and address underlying causes of absences (3, 8)
- Collecting, reporting, and using data at the school and district levels on the prevalence of suspensions and expulsions by student race/ethnicity, gender, disability, English Learner status, and LGBT identification, including cross-tabulations of these factors (e.g., African American boys with disabilities) (1, 5, 7)
- Implementing and training staff on non-punitive school discipline policies that are clear, fair, consistent, and promote a positive learning environment; such policies should be based on a tiered system of appropriate responses to misconduct that keep students in school when possible, and they should include clear, equitable classroom behavior management practices (4, 5, 7)
- Setting clear goals for reducing suspensions/expulsions and the disparate use of such discipline, and continuously evaluating the impact of discipline policies on all students, as directed by federal guidelines (4, 5, 7)
- Addressing discriminatory discipline policies through administrative or legal enforcement (5, 6, 7)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Losen, D., et al. (2015). Are we closing the school discipline gap? UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies. Retrieved from: https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/are-we-closing-the-school-discipline-gap
2. Carter, P., et al. (2014). Discipline disparities series: Overview. The Equity Project at Indiana University. Retrieved from: http://rtpcollaborative.indiana.edu/briefing-papers
3. Ginsburg, A., et al. (2014). Absences add up: How school attendance influences student success. Attendance Works. Retrieved from: http://www.attendanceworks.org/research/absences-add
4. Morgan, E., et al. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from: http://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/school-discipline-consensus-report
5. U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Guiding principles: A resource guide for improving school climate and discipline. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/guiding-principles.pdf
6. Public Counsel. (2017). Fix school discipline: Toolkit for educators. Retrieved from: http://fixschooldiscipline.org/educator-toolkit
7. Losen, D. J., et al. (2014). Keeping California’s kids in school. UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies. Retrieved from: https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/summary-reports/keeping-californias-kids-in-school
8. California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. (n.d.). In school and on track 2016: Attorney General's 2016 report on California's elementary school truancy and absenteeism crisis. Retrieved from: http://oag.ca.gov/truancy/2016
- Websites with Related Information
- Attendance Works
- Dignity in Schools Campaign
- Fix School Discipline
- Governance and Policy Resources: Discipline/Suspension & Expulsion, California School Boards Association
- National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments: Discipline, American Institutes for Research
- National Clearinghouse on Supportive School Discipline
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Dept. of Justice
- Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education Programs
- Safe Schools, California Dept. of Education
- Supportive School Discipline Communities of Practice, American Institutes for Research
- U.S. Dept. of Education: School Climate and Discipline
- UCLA Civil Rights Project: School Discipline
- Youth.gov, Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs
- Key Reports and Research
- 2018 California Children's Report Card, Children Now
- Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline: An Educator’s Action Planning Guide, 2015, National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, Osher, D., et al.
- Closing the School Discipline Gap in California: Signs of Progress, 2015, UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies, Losen, D. J., et al.
- Discipline Disparities Series – Briefing Papers, The Equity Project at Indiana University
- In School + On Track 2016: Attorney General's 2016 Report on California's Elementary School Truancy & Absenteeism Crisis, California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General
- LGBTQ Youth and School Pushout, 2014, Gay-Straight Alliance Network
- Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Charting a Course for Student Success, 2015, Attendance Works and the Healthy Schools Campaign, Jordan, P., & Chang, H.
- Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion, 2013, Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health
- Preventing Missed Opportunity: Taking Collective Action to Confront Chronic Absence, 2016, Attendance Works and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, Chang, H., & Balfanz, R.
- Proactive and Inclusive School Discipline Strategies, 2014, WestEd, O’Malley, M., & Austin, G.
- The Failure of Zero Tolerance, 2014, Reclaiming Children and Youth, Skiba, R. J.
- The Hidden Cost of California's Harsh School Discipline, 2017, UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies, Rumberger, R. W., & Losen, D. J.
- The High Cost of Truancy, 2015, Center for American Progress, Ahmad, F. Z., & Miller, T.
- The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System, 2014, Council of State Governments Justice Center, Morgan, E., et al.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2014 Solano Children's Report Card, Children's Network of Solano County
- 2014 Youth Wellbeing Report Card, Santa Monica Cradle to Career
- 2016-17 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being, Children Now
- Attending School Every Day: Making Progress, Taking Action in Oakland Schools, 2014, Oakland Achieves Partnership, Brown, R., & Jackson, J.
- County of San Mateo Adolescent Report 2014-15, San Mateo County Health System
- Discipline Foundation Policy: School Wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, Los Angeles Unified School District
- Fresno Community Scorecard
- San Diego County Report Card on Children and Families, 2015, The Children's Initiative & Live Well San Diego
- More Data Sources For Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CAL-SCHLS) System, California Dept. of Education & WestEd
- California School Dashboard, California Dept. of Education
- Child Trends Databank: Student Absenteeism
- Civil Rights Data Collection, U.S. Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights
- DataQuest, California Dept. of Education
- Education Data Partnership (Ed-Data), California Department of Education, EdSource, and Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team/California School Information Services
- KIDS COUNT Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Local Control Funding Formula Reports, California Dept. of Education
- National Center for Education Statistics: Data Tools, U.S. Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
- UCLA Civil Rights Project: Online Data Resources
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