Pittsburgh schools board gets update on chronic absenteeism

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The Pittsburgh Public Schools board listened tonight to an update on the district's efforts to boost student attendance.

Dara Ware Allen, assistant superintendent for student support services, and Pete Lavorini, project manager for college and career readiness, explained how data are being used to help principals, social workers and teachers identify students who are missing too much school.

The focus is on students who are chronically absent, which means they miss 10 percent or more days of school in a school year for any reason, legitimate or not. That amounts to 18 days of absence in a 180-day school year.

While the district overall has an average daily attendance rate of 91 percent, the chronic absenteeism rate is much different.

In February, the district released data on chronic absenteeism for 2011-12 which showed chronic absenteeism averaged 47 percent in high schools, 30 percent in 6-12 schools, 26 percent in 6-8 schools and 18 percent in K-8 and K-5 schools. It was as high as 60 percent in Pittsburgh Perry High School on the North Side and as low as 5 percent at Pittsburgh Dilworth PreK-5 in East Liberty.

Ms. Ware noted that students with better attendance records also usually have better grades and better chances of graduating.

The district is part of a countywide "Be There" attendance campaign along with the United Way of Allegheny County and other partners.

Other district efforts include monitoring attendance data; engaging students and parents;providing developing responses to barriers; providing early outreach, and working with community partners.

Superintendent Linda Lane said some efforts have to be one child at a time. She said, "For so many of our kids, it is a single-child story, and you have to know what it is to help."

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Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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