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28% of schoolkids chronically absent

CHARLESTON — Twenty-eight percent of West Virginia public school students missed 18 or more days of school last year and labeled chronically absent.

The numbers are part of the state Department of Education’s Balanced Scorecard that was released last week. A chronically absent student is one who misses 10% or more days. If a student is enrolled for the entire 180-day calendar that would be 18 days.

State Department of Education Data Analysis and Research Director Georgia Hughes-Webb said the top reason for absences last school year is listed as unexcused absences.

“An unexcused absence could be that nobody brought a note or they brought a note that was clearly forged or it just was sufficient and so it was just unexcused,” Hughes-Webb said during an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The second and third top reasons were medical-related, according to Hughes-Webb.

“They are ‘illness verified by a clinician’ or ‘illness verified by a parent,’” she said. “There are perhaps more illnesses than we’ve seen in previous years.”

Hughes-Webb said absenteeism shows up in test scores.

“We’re see that students who are missing a lot of school are struggling to demonstrate proficiency on the assessment to a larger degree to students who are not chronically absent,” she said.

There are several efforts underway to try and improve attendance, according to Hughes-Webb. She said county school districts are attempting to make meaningful contact with families, the Community in Schools program is providing a personal touch to reach students and families. She said there’s also an effort underway at the state Department of Education.