What Our New Truancy, Suspensions and Expulsions Data Don’t Tell Us

The truancy, suspensions, and expulsions data we just added to kidsdata.org offer perspective on an important topic related to children’s well being. Research has shown, for example, that truancy, which is defined as missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three or more times during a school year, is linked to academic failure, dropping out, substance abuse, gang involvement, and criminal activity (more info). In addition, there are high costs associated with truancy. Not only does truancy diminish revenue for schools due to lower daily attendance, it also contributes to costs related to delinquent behavior.

Likewise, our understanding of the effects of expulsions and suspensions is key. Excluding students from school by relying too heavily on suspensions or expulsions as a disciplinary strategy can exacerbate problems such as poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and students’ involvement in the juvenile justice system.

On kidsdata.org, we offer the data that are publicly available from the California Department of Education – the number and percent/rate of expulsions, suspensions, and truancies for school districts and counties statewide. It’s a wealth of data, yet we need more data – in particular, better breakdowns. Some examples:

  • There is growing concern about truancy in elementary schools, but data are not available by grade level or age, making it difficult to understand the extent of the problem in California. Related to this, data on chronic absences, which may or may not be excused, would help us further clarify our understanding about this issue.
  • Similarly, other demographic breakdowns (e.g. socio-economic status, race/ethnicity) are not publicly available, so it’s challenging for officials to accurately identify students that need additional support.
  • There is debate now on using suspensions and expulsions as part of a strategy to combat bullying. However, we don’t have data that give us detailed reasons students are expelled or suspended. Are more California students today being suspended or expelled because of bullying? We simply don’t know.

These are critical data gaps that we hope can be addressed in the coming years, but they shouldn’t prevent us from using what’s available now. At kidsdata.org, our hope is that policymakers and others will begin to acquaint themselves with these just-published indicators, and use these data in their work by bringing attention to these issues, stimulating discussions, deepening our understanding of what’s going on and overall helping to inform decisions that are made. By using these data, we’ll all better understand, too, the limitations of what’s available, thus putting us in an even better position to advocate for improved data on these important issues.

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Posted by kidsdata.org

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 6th, 2011 at 11:58 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. Transformkidsnow.com says:

    Attendance programs best reach the student who is interested in changing; the student who is listening to you; the student who shows up to reap the benefits of the program. Dropout programs, although resourceful, often come too late. Truancy programs serve an important role, but need to be created before the problem presents itself.