Today, The Chronicle of Social Change resumes its Focus on the Figures series with KidsData. Every other week, we will features one key indicator from Kidsdata.org, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well-being of children across California.
Our previous series with KidsData covered the child welfare system. This series will examine crime and delinquency, and we begin today with truancy.
The state of California defines basic truancy as missing more than 30 minutes of school instruction, three or more times during a school year, without an excuse. The percentage of students who are truant is calculated by dividing the number of truant students by the total number of public school enrollees in that location.
This is different from “chronic truancy,” which involves absences totaling 10 percent or more of the school days in a year.
By the state’s basic truancy definition, 1.9 million California students were truant in 2013, which is 29 percent of the total public school student population in the state. The percentage of students who are truant is on the rise in the Golden State, up from 23 percent in 2005.
San Bernardino, the state’s fifth largest county at 2 million people, posted the highes truancy rate at 36 percent. Tiny Inyo County (population 18,546) posted the lowers at just 8 percent.
High truancy rates are not entirely the domain of high-population counties in California. Several of the smallest counties – including Calaveras, Mono and Sierra – have some of the state’s highest truancy rates.
Truancy percentages tend to be more variable in counties and school districts that have fewer students. For example, Sierra County, with less than 3,500 public school students enrolled between 2005 and 2013, has posted some of the state’s highest and lowest truancy percentages. San Bernardino’s truancy rate has much less variability from year to year.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.