Ala. looks to put stop to millions of school absences

Ala. looks to put stop to millions of school absences
In Alabama, there were more than 6.5 million absences from schools statewide in 2018-2019 school year. Teachers can't instruct them if they're not present, so systems are getting creative to boost attendance rates. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There were around 6.5 million total student absences during the 2018-19 school year across Alabama. If that’s shocking, just consider that it was down about 500,000 absences from the previous year.

Educators can’t teach a child if they’re not in the classroom.

With students missing out on millions of class hours each year, the Alabama Department of Education says it is up to each individual school district to reach out to parents and students if they begin missing class. But that doesn’t mean the ALSDE isn’t encouraging schools to make sure their students are present.

“That student needs a conversation with an adult peer to talk about what’s going on. What’s the problem with you not coming to school? Is it transportation? Do you have responsibilities at home? Is there a social emotional concern that maybe you want to share?" asked Kay Atchison Warfield, who works in the Education Administrator Prevention and Support Services section at ALSDE.

ALSDE says the more absences a student incurs, the less likely they are to graduate.

0-4 87%
5-9 63%
10-14 41%
15-19 21%
20-24 9%
25-29 5%
30-34 2%
35-40 1%

About 3.9 million of those 6.5 million absences last school year, or around 60 percent, were excused. That means a parent took the child out of school for a doctor’s appointment or provided the school with an excused note. That’s still leaves 2.6 million unexcused reasons for not being in class.

Schools are encouraged to promote the 2019 Alabama School Attendance Awareness Month celebration. Warfield said some schools give out awards and have drawings to provide an incentive for students to attend.

State guidelines say it takes 15 absences for someone to be considered “chronically absent.” That chronic absenteeism is scored on the state’s annual education report card.

Each school receives funding that’s also tied to the number students enrolled. The state collects data on the average number of students enrolled in each school during a 20-day period after Labor Day

An average of $6,000 is given for each student enrolled in a given school.

By law, students between ages 6 and 17 are already required to attend school.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.