Valley school district cuts absenteeism rate in half in less than a year

Apr 14, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 7:11 am

(Facebook Photo/Buckeye Elementary School District)...

(Facebook Photo/Buckeye Elementary School District)

(Facebook Photo/Buckeye Elementary School District)

PHOENIX — Many schools were faced with high numbers of frequently absent students after the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Buckeye Elementary School District has reduced the amount of its chronic absenteeism.

During the 2021-22 school year, the district’s chronic absenteeism rate was 29.64% but has been reduced to 15% for April and was as low as 12.31% in March.

“We set a goal for ourselves to decrease (chronic absenteeism) by 5%, and we have exceeded that goal,” Buckeye Elementary School District Superintendent Kristi Wilson said.

Chronic absenteeism is when a student has missed more than 18 days of school.

Wilson attributes the improvements to a district-wide initiative working with families, staff and students to promote the importance of daily attendance.

Chad Lanese, the district’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, explains when schools returned from COVID-19, they wanted to re-establish healthy attendance habits, starting with creating a district truancy plan.

“The focus is communication to parents early and often, so they know how many absences their child has accrued. So, the more that we can track that on a regular basis and then communicate it to parents, we educate them on the importance of school and being in attendance,” Lanese said.

Lanese told KTAR News some of those conversations were as simple as not scheduling their child’s doctor’s appointment during school and emphasizing that every minute in class matters.

Another tool the district is using to lower numbers is an incentive program. Lanese said schools within the district share their attendance percentages weekly.

“Each of our schools has an incentive plan, and it can be on an individual level. A lot of times, it’s done by grade levels, and if they meet certain goals, then they have a celebration,” Lanese said.

According to Superintendent Wilson, student accountability is one important factor in the drop in chronic absenteeism.

“There’s a real concentrated effort to help our students take ownership of their own learning, and when that occurs, we find students sort of being the messenger to the parent as well, saying it’s really important I don’t miss school,” Wilson said.

The district said the goal when monitoring and tracking the attendance of students is to intervene early and often before it can become a persistent problem, along with identifying and targeting why a student is missing school.

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Valley school district cuts absenteeism rate in half in less than a year