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- Definition: Number of K-12 public school students missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three or more times during the school year.Percentage of K-12 public school students missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three or more times during the school year.
- Data Source: California Dept. of Education, DataQuest (Jul. 2015).
- Footnote: Per Education Code Section 48260, a truant 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." Students are only counted once in the total. Unexcused absences resulting from suspensions are not included in the truancy figures. 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. Years presented are the final year of a school year (e.g., 2013-2014 is shown as 2014).
- Measures of Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org offers the following measures:
Measures of truant students, suspensions from school, and expulsions from school come from the California Department of Education's DataQuest site. Measures of truancy reported by students and school staff come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), California Student Survey (CSS), and California School Climate Survey (CSCS), through a partnership with WestEd and the California Department of Education.
- 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 absent (i.e., students whose unexcused and excused absences total 10% or more of all school days in a year).
- Truant students (student reported): The percentage of students in grades 7, 9, and 11, and non-traditional students, reporting the number of times they had 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.*
- School staff reports of the extent to which truancy and cutting class is a problem.
- Suspensions from school: The unduplicated number and rate of suspensions per 100 K-12 public school students.
- Expulsions from school: The unduplicated number and percent of expulsions among K-12 public school students.
* 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.
- 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
- 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
- Disconnected Youth
- High School Graduation
- Impact of Special Health Care Needs on Children & Families
- Math 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)
- Pupil Support Service Personnel
- Reading Proficiency
- 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. (2014). 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: http://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 2014, almost 2 million public school students in California, 31.1% 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 rose between 2005 and 2014, from 23% to 31%. Nearly 280,000 students were suspended (4.4 per 100 students) and over 6,600 students (0.1%) were expelled in California in 2014.
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. 16% of California public middle school staff reported that skipping school or cutting class was a "moderate" or "severe" problem at their school, but that percentage increased to 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 absences – are at increased risk of academic failure and dropping out (3). While disciplinary removal may be necessary at times, research shows that students often are removed for minor disruptions, and suspensions/expulsions do not result in safer schools, better student behavior, or improved academic performance (1, 4, 5). Research also has documented significantly 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/expulsions in recent years, much more work is needed to ensure that all schools, including preschools, 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).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could reduce truancy and excessive or disproportionate suspensions/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 absences) 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)
- Following state and federal law, implementing 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. This will require regular training and support for all school staff. (4, 5, 7)
- As part of school discipline policies, setting clear goals for reducing suspensions/expulsions and 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: http://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. Fix School Discipline. (n.d.). How we can 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: http://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. (2014). In school + on track: Attorney General's 2014 report on California's elementary school truancy & absenteeism crisis. Retrieved from: http://oag.ca.gov/truancy/2014
- Websites with Related Information
- Attendance Works
- California Dept. of Education: Behavioral Intervention Strategies and Supports
- 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
- School Discipline: Research Related to Racial Disparities in Policies and Practices, UCLA, Civil Rights Project
- Supportive School Discipline Communities of Practice, American Institutes for Research
- Youth.gov, Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs
- Key Reports
- 2016 California Children's Report Card, Children Now
- Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success, 2014, Attendance Works, Ginsburg, A., et al.
- Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline: An Educator’s Action Planning Guide, 2015, American Institutes for Research for the U.S. Department of Education
- Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?, 2015, UCLA, Center for Civil Rights Remedies, Losen, D., et al.
- Discipline Disparities Series, 2014, The Equity Project at Indiana University
- Exclusionary School Discipline, American Institutes for Research
- First, Do No Harm: Reducing Disparities for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Populations in California, 2012, California Dept. of Public Health, Office of Health Equity, Mikalson, P., et al.
- In School + On Track: Attorney General's 2014 Report on California's Elementary School Truancy & Absenteeism Crisis, 2014, California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General
- Keeping California's Kids in School, 2014, UCLA, Center for Civil Rights Remedies, Losen, D. J., et al.
- LGBTQ Youth and School Pushout, 2014, Gay-Straight Alliance Network
- Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion, 2013, Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health
- Proactive and Inclusive School Discipline Strategies, 2014, WestEd, O’Malley, M., & Austin, G.
- School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package, U.S. Dept. of Education
- The Failure of Zero Tolerance, 2014, Reclaiming Children and Youth, Skiba, R. J.
- The High Cost of Truancy, 2015, Center for American Progress and Progress 2050, 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
- Children's Report Card, Sacramento County Children's Coalition
- County of San Mateo Adolescent Report 2014-15, San Mateo County Health System
- Discipline Foundation Policy: School-Wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, 2014, 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
- 2016-17 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being, Children Now
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CAL-SCHLS) System, California Dept. of Education & WestEd
- Child Trends Databank: Student Absenteeism
- Civil Rights Data Collection, U.S. Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights
- DataQuest, California Dept. of Education
- 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
- School-to-Prison Pipeline: Online Data Resources, UCLA, Center for Civil Rights Remedies
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