Truancy Postscript

One last look at the truancy data:

Last year’s 6-absence conference data from RPS for the elementary and middle schools don’t look to be useful; they contain too many reports that are obviously bogus.  The high school numbers, in contrast, are so large that they might even be accurate.

So, let’s look for a relationship between the high schools’ SOL performance and those conference numbers. 

Below, I’ve plotted the pass rates vs. the number of conferences expressed as a percentage of the fall enrollment (“ADM” or “Average Daily Membership”).  I’ve omitted the selective schools, Community, Franklin, and Open.


It’s reasonable to expect the SOL performance to decrease with increasing unexcused absences and both datasets meet that expectation.  Indeed, the correlation is nontrivial for the math tests and fairly robust for the reading.

Of course, correlation does not imply causation.  But these data (1) make sense, and (2) suggest that the 6-absence conference counts from these schools might be believable.

Here are the data:


One further inference:  Armstrong has only one attendance officer assigned to it and reports 602 conferences, i.e., 3.34 for each of the 180 days in a nominal school year.  If that attendance officer actually scheduled 602 conferences and had the parents and student show up for some number of them, and also prepared at least 602 of the prerequisite 5-absence attendance plans, we’ll have to wonder about the level of preparation.  As well, it it makes sense that he wouldn’t have had time to take more than a few of the 7-absence cases to court.

But, then, the shortage of truancy officers, and the decreasing truancy budget, make it clear that Richmond’s gross violations of the truancy statute are deliberate.

That’s about as far as these data can take us.  It surely would be fine if RPS were more forthcoming (and if VBOE were actually doing its job of enforcing the attendance laws).


Notes for the interested reader:

  • Jim Bacon points out the UVa study that reports a 19.7% chronic absenteeism rate (defined in the report as ≥ 10% of school days) in Richmond in 2015.  Their data show the rate decreasing from first to fifth grade and then rising steeply through the later grades.  Their data also show chronically absent students underperforming their (chronically present?) peers considerably on the SOLs.
  • A VDOE Web page headlines the requirements of the new truancy regulation adopted by VBOE last June, albeit they won’t collect the (badly needed) data until next year.