Sunday, July 21, 2024

Cascade School District corrects data errors, finds attendance is higher than state reports

Posted

LEAVENWORTH – Students in Cascade School District (CSD) are attending school more often than state data shows, due to a recently discovered error in schools’ attendance reporting to the state.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) Washington State Report Card, CSD had a 62 percent rate of students attending 90 percent or more of school days during the 2022-2023 school year. However, the schools have been seeing an average daily attendance of around 88 to 89 percent.

“It's a massive difference. So, no, they're not exactly the same number, but you would expect average daily and average yearly to align. It wouldn't be identical necessarily, but they should be close,” said CSD Superintendent Dr. Tracey Edou.

The report card data shows that attendance remained steady at 87 percent for seven years, with an average of 87 percent through the 2020-2021 school year. However, starting in 2021-2022, attendance dropped to 62 percent.

Because of the delay in the state’s reporting, the CSD Board noticed a mismatch in the data about a year ago for the 2021-2022 school year and assumed the drop was due to the pandemic and quarantine requirements. When the 2022-2023 data reflected the same numbers, red flags were raised.

“The school board had said, ‘Can you tell us why? Why are the kids absent? Can you categorize it?’” said Edou.

Edou reviewed the code used by school secretaries for explaining student absences and discovered that the third highest reason students were absent was due to participating in school activities.

“What we noticed was, the school activities are being coded as full-on absences, rather than that the children are doing something related to school, just not specifically in their classrooms. They might be at a sports event, an extracurricular activity, a field trip, they might be testing, they might be seeing the school nurse, you know, all the things that you would do within a school,” said Edou.

The schools had been using the code “E” for excused absence, instead of the correct “O” for other. Edou believes this started during the pandemic, when “O” was used for COVID-19 related recording, and never switched back. 

Because actual enrollment drives funding, attendance does not have any effect on the school district budget. However, the misrepresentation of CSD’s attendance rates inaccurately reflects high chronic absenteeism, affecting public perceptions and district goals.

After sharing her findings to the board on June 24, Edou explained the goal in the 2024-2025 school year will be to correct previous code errors, retrain secretaries, and do regular spot checks to ensure accurate reporting.

“The objective here under attendance isn't so much about increasing our attendance rate. First, it’s about cleaning up our processes,” said Edou during the meeting.

Edou says that when the 2023-2024 Report Card comes out in the fall, the attendance rate will likely see a large improvement. 

“I think one impact is that I'm hoping that the community understands that all in all, our students are coming to school. They're learning. They're engaged in lots of different kinds of activities, whether it be sports or extracurricular activities, or field trips or learning about their community apprenticeships, all of these things. Our students are very, very engaged and they are getting a great education. They're not avoiding school. They're actually really involved in school,” said Edou.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here