by James C. Sherlock
The effects of public policies can be murky.
Not this one.
The subject in this Part 3 is alarming chronic absenteeism of Charlottesville City Schools (CCS).
At issue is the virtual abandonment by that division of the use truancy filings with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, removing parental consequences.
That change has been accompanied by enormous increases in absenteeism and everything, all bad, that comes with it.
The numbers are stark.
In the 2018-19 school year,
- 352 CCS students (8.2%) were chronically absent.
- Black student chronic absenteeism was 12.4%.
- CCS filed 218 truancy complaints.
- Truancy filings were made in 62% of chronic absenteeism cases.
Then, in no particular order, came COVID and progressive overreach:
- A CCS Office of Equity and Engagement;
- Social-emotional learning;
- Tiered systems and supports;
- Restorative justice;
- 86% of CCS students labeled as “gifted” in 2021. (A national embarrassment).
Lots of school divisions did the first four, but CCS appears to have leaned in to those types of initiatives harder than other school divisions.
That led up to the 2022-23 school year. The school board regulation on absenteeism had not changed from 2018, yet
- 895 CCS students (21.3%) were chronically absent;
- Black student chronic absenteeism was 30.9%.
- CCS filed only 13 truancy complaints
- Truancy filings were made in 1.5% of chronic absenteeism cases.
Black Students. Academic performance of Black students in 2022-23 was at levels all but unimaginably bad. Go here and click on Black in all the SOL results.
CCS leaders do not want those results. Yet that appears to be the unintended effect of their lack of action on chronic absenteeism.
Black chronic absenteeism last year in the 8th grade at Buford Middle was 64%. It spiked there but was not limited to that grade or school as we see below. It included kindergarten.
Absenteeism declined in high school because of the influx of kids from K-8 private schools. Doing the math, we can see that there were 94 Black 8th graders at Buford and 137 Black 9th graders in the high school last year.
Background. Reduced truancy filings is a statewide trend.
In 2018-19 there were 14,326 truancy referrals statewide. In 2022-23 there were 5,116. But few school divisions scrapped that anti-absenteeism tool at the pace of Charlottesville.
VDOE nicely summarizes the definitions and life consequences of absenteeism and truancy. The ways VDOE offers to address absenteeism seem overly bureaucratic, but the Governor has made reducing absenteeism a priority and has a Task Force working to improve policy.
Bottom line. We all know that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. But for Charlottesville Schools, questions must be answered.
Will they use the truancy laws to re-establish parental consequences for their children’s chronic absenteeism? If not, why?
Reflecting the cobalt blue politics of their area and the influence of the University’s ed school, they may have decided that truancy charges are oppressive, perhaps racist.
The evidence indicates, however, that their failure to use that tool may be ruining a lot of Black lives.
If they have a better idea, I suggest they get to it.