Education
10:17 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Accounted For: Mapping Chronic Absenteeism In Missouri

Chronic absenteeism is an issue in many districts across the state. Scroll down for an interactive map.

More than 108,000 students missed at least three and a half weeks of school last year. That’s enough lost instruction time to be considered chronically absent, defined as missing 10 percent or more of school during the course of the year.

As St. Louis Public Radio reported on Wednesday, chronic absenteeism can set students up for a string of academic problems. 

“We argue that it’s like bacteria in a hospital, it’s sort of an unseen force that wreaks havoc with our efforts to educate kids,” said Robert Balfanz, senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

St. Louis On The Air focused on chronic absenteeism on Wed, March 19. Guests included Robert Balfanz, senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, Jamie Jordan, principal at Brittany Woods Middle School in University City and Ruby Jones, senior director of relationship support for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri.

Recently, education officials in Missouri started zooming in on the attendance of individual students under something called 90-90.  Under the statewide standard, 90 percent of students must be in class or in a distance-learning program at least 90 percent of the time.  Last year 90-90 was rolled into the standards used to determine a district’s accreditation status, accounting for 10 out of a possible 140 points.

“We found out that attendance for certain students had been masked,” said Margie Vandeven, deputy commissioner of learning services for the Missouri Department of Elmentary and Secondary Education. “We have a lot of kids who are not attending school.” 

The below map shows the number of students who missed enough school time last year to be considered chronically absent for individual school districts.  There are no data available for districts in black.

(Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) 

This story is the second part of Accounted For, an ongoing project of St. Louis Public Radio that explores the connection between chronic absenteeism -- defined as missing three and a half weeks or more of school -- and classroom success.