The Board of “Education” Still Doesn’t Care About Truancy

We are reminded by a piece on NPR that you can’t teach students who don’t attend school. 

The General Assembly noticed that problem awhile back.  In 1999, they amended Code § 22.1-258 to install the currently-effective requirements for truancy responses:

  • Any unexcused absence: Contact with the parent;
  • 5 unexcused absences: Attendance Plan;
  • 6 unexcused absences: Conference with Parents;
  • 7 unexcused absences: Prosecute parents or file CHINS petition.

The Department of “Education” responded by requiring the divisions to report the number of students for whom a conference was scheduled and the aggregate daily attendance.  Notwithstanding its duty and authority “to see that the [mandatory attendance laws] are properly enforced throughout the Commonwealth” the Department cheerfully ignored the other requirements of the statute. 

That willful ignorance continued until, after a bumpy process that started in 2009, the Board adopted a truancy regulation, effective November 30, 2016, that requires reporting of

1. All excused and unexcused absences as defined in this chapter for each individual student shall be collected.
2. For each student with five unexcused absences, whether an attendance plan was developed, and if not, the reason.
3. For each student with six unexcused absences, whether an attendance conference was scheduled, and if not, the reason.
4. For each student with six unexcused absences, whether an attendance conference was actually held, and if not, the reason.
5. For each student with seven unexcused absences, whether a court referral was made or if proceedings against the parent or parents were initiated and, if not, the reason.

Beginning with the current school year, the Department will collect data on attendance plans, conferences, and court referrals.  We’ll have to wait until next year to see whether that covers the requirements of the regulation (much less the statute).  In the meantime, we’re stuck with the old count of 6-absence conferences

CAVEAT: Take these data with a tub of salt.  Richmond ignored the statute for years (without provoking any action from the Board of “Education”).  The current data suggest that Richmond is trying harder; we’ll have to wait to next year for the supporting data to see whether they (and other divisions) have decided to obey the law. 

So, understanding that these “truancy” numbers may be understated:

Dividing the reported number of six-absence conferences by the fall enrollment (“ADM”), we see the top divisions for (this measure of) truancy:

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At least on these data, this is not just a big city problem.

For a nice contrast, here are the divisions reporting <0.5%.

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There’s no telling which, if any, of those numbers we should believe.

Finally, here are the divisions for which there is NO REPORT and no indication of VDOE action to get one.

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Your tax dollars at “work.”