A new report released by an early childhood education advocacy group, found that 44 percent of elementary schools in North Carolina had chronic absenteeism rates of between 10 percent and 19 percent. That means these students missed 15 or more days of school in a year.
Research shows that chronically absent students have lower test scores, graduation rates and decreased chances of getting into college or breaking the cycle of poverty. The report, compiled by the North Carolina Early Childhood Education Foundation, shows that in some elementary schools around the state as many as 30 percent of students were chronically absent in 2014. That was the first and most recent year that the U.S. Department of Education collected absenteeism information from school districts nationwide.
Numbers in the state ranged from a low of 0 percent and 0.4 percent in Mount Airy City and Rowan County, respectively, to more than 26 percent in rural Warren County in the north central part of the state. Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools fared much better, with 2.9 percent of its elementary students chronically absent. In Asheville City, the rate was 12 percent; nine percent in Gaston County; nearly 14 percent in Guilford and 10 percent in Iredell and Hickory.
Statewide, Hispanic elementary students had the lowest chronic absenteeism rate at 10 percent, compared to 11 percent of Asians, 12 percent of African-Americans and 13 percent of white students. American Indian and Pacific Islander/Hawaiian students had the highest rates of over 23 percent.
The report says chronic absenteeism may be higher than reported because some school districts did not count excused absences or out-of-school suspensions. It recommended that state officials clearly define chronic absenteeism and make a concerted effort to learn more about school officials' efforts that are successfully tackling student absenteeism.