What Do They Learn When They’re Not In School?

The Feds have an annual “Civil Rights Data Collection” that includes data on chronic absences (absent 15 or more school days,  whether excused or not) by school.  They have mapped those data.

The latest dataset, 2013-14, runs 457 MB as a CSV file and 606 MB when imported into Excel.  My first venture into that thicket found some interesting data about Richmond.

Let’s begin with the elementary schools:


The Excellent News here is Patrick Henry.  Now, if they only had better SOLs to match.

The shockers here (beyond the astounding rates of absenteeism) are Carver and Fairfield.  Their awful rates of chronic absences contrast with their recent, splendid SOL scores.

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If we plot the elementary school pass rates vs. the chronic absence rates, we see:


The outperformer there, with an absence rate of 25% and pass rates above 80% on both tests, is Carver (squares on the graph).  Fairfield Court (diamonds on the graph), at 21% absences, outperforms on math at 79% but not so much on reading at 61%.

These data can’t tell us whether those two principals are superb educators or accomplished cheaters but it looks like one or the other.

If you thought the elementary school absence rates were awful, just wait:  The Division average is 22% so something is pulling the average up.  That “something” is the middle and high schools.

The (much too high) middle school numbers look to be consistent with the pass rates there.



The two big underperformers are Elkhardt (squares) and Henderson (diamonds).

The high schools’ rates (including the astounding 60% chronic absence rate at Wythe) are much worse than the middle schools’ while the SOLs are generally better (courtesy, methinks, of the horrific dropout rate).



The overperformers with excellent attendance and pass rates are Open (4% absences, 98% reading, 91% math) and Community (5%, 100%, 82%).  Wythe, at 60% absences, nonetheless overperforms the mainline high schools in reading.  The underperformer on both tests, notwithstanding pretty good attendance, is Franklin (squares).  The other math underperformers are TJ (diamond) and Armstrong (triangle).

Note that Franklin has both middle and high school grades and I’ve included it in both the middle and high school datasets, albeit the numbers probably do not compare directly.

Looking at these data, notably Open and Community high schools, we can guesstimate that the excused absence rate is somewhere under 5%. The 22% Richmond average rate of fifteen day absences thus translates to something like a 17% truancy rate.  Yet Richmond reports only a 10% rate of ten-day truancies.  There’s something fishy here.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Board of Education, which has the duty and authority “to see that the [mandatory attendance laws] are properly enforced throughout the Commonwealth,” still does not even collect useful truancy data.  Instead of correcting that situation, it looks like the Board will vote to adopt a feckless, unlawful, belated draft regulation on June 23.

And the government compels us to pay for this shambles.


Here are the data: