Quarter 3 attendance information may now be uploaded into the Synergy Student Information System. The Department is providing some additional guidance for Quarter 3 reporting because student attendance data is now an accountability indicator in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is important that districts are clear on the instructions for uploading truancy and attendance reports so that the data is accurate and consistent.
The following are guidance for truancy and attendance uploads:
Under ESSA, Maine is now required to report Chronic Absenteeism to the U.S. Department of Education. A student is considered absent if that student is present for less than 50% of his or her instructional day. A student is either considered absent or present for any given day. Less than half a day is counted as zero; half or more of a day is counted as one. A student is considered chronically absent if a student is absent 10% or more of the days enrolled and is enrolled for a minimum of ten days.
Most students have an instructional day that is defined by the school’s daily schedule, but there may be students for whom this is not the case. For example, a high school senior taking only two classes might have a full instructional day of 3 hours. That student would be absent if present for fewer than 1.5 hours. Your schools may also have specific attendance policies that address the completion of instructional activities off-campus (e.g., distance education, community projects).
The student attendance report will ask that you provide the following information for each student:
- Number of days enrolled (whole number only. Decimals not allowed). This is the number of active instructional days that school has been in session since the student’s initial enrollment. Holidays, in-service days, and days that the school is closed for inclement weather would not be included. With some exceptions (See Maine Statute Title 20-A Section 4801)a student who is enrolled for the full school year would be expected to
- Total days absent (whole number only. Decimals not allowed). Students should NOT be counted absent when participating in sanctioned school activities that cause them to miss classroom instruction (e.g. field trips, school sports team activities)
- Total days of excused absences (whole number only. Decimals not allowed)
This will allow you (and the DOE) to determine the number of unexcused absences the student accrued and therefore give you a tool with which to double check your truancy data. For example, you would expect to see a truancy incident created for a student with 10 or more unexcused absences (days absent – excused absences).
Truancy refers only to a student’s unexcused absences and is a term that only applies to students who are of compulsory school age (7 to 17). There are four different truancy thresholds:
- A student aged 7 or above who hasn’t completed 6th grade and has 5 or more consecutive unexcused absences
- A student aged 7 or above who hasn’t completed 6th grade and has 7 or more cumulative unexcused absences.
- A student who has completed 6th grade but is not yet 17 and has 7 or more consecutive unexcused absences.
- A student who has completed 6th grade but is not yet 17 and has 10 or more cumulative unexcused absences.
For schools to determine when a student reaches any of these thresholds, it would be necessary for the school to track daily attendance and maintain information on whether each absence is excused or unexcused.
Maine Statute Title 20-A, Section 5001-A enumerates six categories of excusable absence:
- Personal illness;
- An appointment with a health professional that must be made during the regular school day;
- Observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day;
- A family emergency;
- A planned absence for a personal or educational purpose that has been approved;
- *Education disruption resulting from homelessness, unplanned psychiatric hospitalization, unplanned hospitalization for a medical emergency, foster care placement, youth development center placement or some other out-of-district placement that is not otherwise authorized by either an IEP, other education plan, or a superintendent’s agreement.
Local school boards have the responsibility for developing rules to administer the attendance statute, which could include any local policies on what, if any, documentation is required to excuse an absence.
Truancy reporting requires student information to be submitted that indicates which of the four truancy thresholds the student crossed and documentation of the school’s response to the truancy. The sequence of steps to that response are also described in statute Title 20-A, Section 5051-A.
Going forward, attendance and truancy data will be need to be uploaded at no less than on a quarterly basis. For the 2017-2018 year, the Department will be requiring only Quarter 3 and the Final report to be certified. However, for intervention purposes, the Department recommends districts review student attendance on at least a weekly or monthly basis.
For questions regarding attendance and truancy, please contact Gayle Erdheim 207-624-6637. For questions regarding access to Synergy or NEO, please contact the help desk, 207-624-6896.