Colorado schools see improvement in attendance, but still face challenges

A new report from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) reveals that chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing 10% or more of the school days enrolled, has decreased slightly in the 2022-2023 school year compared to the previous year. However, the report also shows that nearly one in four students across the state still fall into this category, which can have negative impacts on their academic performance and future outcomes.

What are the causes and consequences of chronic absenteeism?

According to the CDE, chronic absenteeism can be influenced by various factors, such as health issues, family responsibilities, transportation problems, lack of engagement, bullying, homelessness, and poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated some of these challenges, especially for students from low-income and marginalized communities.

Colorado schools see improvement in attendance, but still face challenges
Colorado schools see improvement in attendance, but still face challenges

Chronic absenteeism can have serious consequences for students’ learning and development. Research shows that students who are chronically absent are more likely to fall behind in reading and math, drop out of high school, and experience lower earnings and higher unemployment rates as adults. Chronic absenteeism can also affect the school climate and culture, as well as the allocation of resources and funding.

How are Colorado schools addressing chronic absenteeism?

The CDE report indicates that about 70% of school districts in Colorado have either maintained or improved their attendance rates from the 2021-2022 school year to the 2022-2023 school year. This suggests that districts are paying attention and working to coordinate around this issue.

Some of the strategies that districts have implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism include:

  • Tracking attendance data in real-time and identifying students who are at risk of missing school
  • Providing personalized support and interventions for students and families who are facing barriers to attendance
  • Creating a positive and welcoming school environment that fosters student engagement and belonging
  • Offering flexible and alternative learning options for students who need them
  • Communicating with parents and caregivers about the importance of attendance and the resources available to help them
  • Recognizing and rewarding students who improve or maintain good attendance

Which districts have seen the most improvement and which ones still struggle?

The CDE report provides a breakdown of the chronic absenteeism rates by district, school level, grade level, and student group. Some of the highlights from the report are:

  • The districts that have seen the most improvement in their chronic absenteeism rates from the 2021-2022 school year to the 2022-2023 school year are: Westminster Public Schools (from 50.4% to 37.9%), Denver Public Schools (from 38.9% to 28.6%), and Pueblo City Schools (from 40.6% to 30.8%).
  • The districts that still have the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the 2022-2023 school year are: Adams County 14 (46.8%), Mapleton 1 (42.7%), and Bennett 29J (36.8%).
  • The school levels that have the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the 2022-2023 school year are: high schools (32.4%), middle schools (28.9%), and alternative schools (52.5%).
  • The grade levels that have the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the 2022-2023 school year are: 12th grade (38.7%), 11th grade (36.5%), and 9th grade (34.5%).
  • The student groups that have the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the 2022-2023 school year are: students with disabilities (35.7%), students experiencing homelessness (47.9%), and students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (31%).

The CDE report also provides recommendations for districts and schools to continue their efforts to improve attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism. Some of these recommendations are:

  • Establishing clear and consistent attendance policies and procedures
  • Providing professional development and training for staff on attendance best practices
  • Collaborating with community partners and agencies to address the root causes of chronic absenteeism
  • Using data-driven decision making and continuous improvement processes to monitor and evaluate attendance initiatives
  • Celebrating successes and sharing best practices with other districts and schools

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