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The hidden problem of chronic absence

Staff Photojournalistphoto by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

We’ve just posted a story I wrote about chronic absenteeism — when a student misses 10 percent or more school days for any reason, excused or unexcused.

A small, but growing number of school districts in California have begun to crunch the numbers to see which of their students are habitually out of school, and how many. Traditionally, schools have looked only at how many of their students attend school each day, on average, or how many were truant or tardy.

When you count excused absences, the number of kindergartners who miss 18 or more days of school might surprise you (unless you’re a kindergarten teacher).

In Oakland last year, 14 percent of the youngest students were chronically absent, but kindergarten absenteeism a problem for all kinds of school districts — big and small, rich and poor. One of my relatives, who teaches kindergarten at a private school in a very nice neighborhood, told me some parents keep their children home periodically just so they can spend time together, one on one.

This year, Oakland has launched an attendance initiative for kindergarten and first grades, called “Every Day Counts.” What is your school doing to educate families on the importance of attendance — and to help them get their children to school? Is it making its statistics available, by grade-level?

Teachers: Do you see the effects of absenteeism among your students?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nontcair

    Can you believe this clown?

    When the boy giggled “The Emperor has no clothes!”, he’s the courtier who called out for the men in the white suits.

  • Nontcair

    If a law degree is a history degree then an Astrology course is a PhD in Astrophysics.

  • Nontcair

    These professions are called a “practice”. Not for amateurs.

    Do not try thinking for yourself at home!

    What a Sophist!

  • Nontcair

    Thus my suspicion of personality disorders. We see that a lot with people acting crazy in court, I’m familiar with the signs.

    What was that about amateurs?

  • Debora

    I understand the problem of chronic absenteeism for families that do not plan their time out of school; however, when I had my own daughter out of school on a school day (usually when the teachers threatened a strike, walking protest or some other political action) I would take her to a museum with an audio tour. She often learned more on the day out of school than she learned in school for the equivalent amount of time.

    While I understand that this is not the case for many parents who keep their children home from school, for bright students in Oakland who are able to take the released STAR questions for their current grade at the beginning of the year, the school day does not offer them as much as a trip to a museum, the symphony (which has free talks and sessions during the day) or a walking tour of the botanical gardens.

    To think that Oakland public classrooms are the best deal in town for every student, every day is a mistake.

  • Nontcair

    A busy mom told me how one day her kid came home from school with a ton of homework, needing her help.

    Mom felt that it was material which should have been covered, indeed *completed*, in class.

    When mom asked her kid what he had been doing in class he mentioned that in the final hour the teacher had put on an educational video.

    Mom was so pissed. She said: “I can do *that* at HOME. At school I want my kid to be *taught*!”

    Public daycare.

    Hey, OUSD parents! In school have your kids been watching the ballgame?