Claremore High School faired well over-all on recently-released Oklahoma Department of Education school report cards, but received a D in chronic absenteeism.

CHS Principal Kerri Garroutte and CPS Superintendent Bryan Frazier addressed the issue of chronic absenteeism in the district, why it is a problem and what the schools are going to do to solve it.

The state defines chronically absent as students who miss 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. Missing over 16 days in a single school year categorizes a student as chronically absent.

Research indicates that chronic absenteeism may place students at academic risk.

“If students aren’t here their learning suffers,” Garroutte said. “If they miss a math class and they come back the next day, they already have a gap in information because math is so sequential.”

When students get behind they have to work twice as hard to catch up.

Garroutte said the high school is also preparing students for their futures, where they will have to show up on time in order to keep their jobs.

In the school grading system, Claremore High School received a D in this area.

Approximately 84 percent of CHS students attend school regularly compared to 88 percent throughout the school district and 86.5 percent state-wide.

Of the 16 percent of students that are chronically absent, Garroutte said, “that is way to high.”

“One of our struggles right now is a cultural struggle of students and parents not understanding the toll it takes on the learning process,” Garroutte said. “We’ve got to show them that school is important to them.”

Another struggle is students with multiple illnesses or a chronic illness, where necessary days off just add up.

As an example, Garroutte said, there is currently a student who had what should have been a simple surgical operation.

Complications as a result of the surgery kept the student out of school for more than 10 days.

Another student missed several days because they suddenly lost a parent.

The state standards further separated the statistics by race and ethnicity, economic disadvantage and students with disabilities.

Minority students, on average, had lower attendance percentages than their peers.

Economically advantaged students had a good attendance percentage of 88.2 compared to 78.9 percent good attendance for economically disadvantaged students.

The lowest good attendance percentage was for students with disabilities, 75.8 percent.

Other schools in the district performed better. Will Rogers Junior High had almost 91 percent of students in good attendance, earning a B; Westside Elementary had 88.15 percent, earning a C; Roosa had 88.56 percent, earning a C; Claremont had 93.3 percent, earning a B; and Catalayah had 91.3 percent, earning a B.

Garroutte said the high school’s test exemption policy is one of the current efforts they have to curb absenteeism.

“Students keep up with their absences and their grades to make sure that they’ve got that magical number that means they don’t have to take a test,” she said. “That helps them be here.”

“Data speaks to reality, and this was not something that we have ever stopped to look at until this week,” Garroutte said.

Both Garroutte and Frazier said that they appreciated the addition of this indicator on the state assessment because it made them stop and consider another factor that contributes to graduation rates and student success.

Frazier said that chronic absenteeism would be addressed district-wide.

“We’re not satisfied at all where we are at, but we are also of the mind that we are where we are, so we take this test and we move forward,” Frazier said. “Chronic absenteeism hurt a couple of our schools pretty dramatically.”

Pending school board approval, the high school plans to shrink the number of approved absences per block from seven to four. Going over the approved number of absences results in a failing grade for the block. With seven absences per block the school was theoretically approving as many as 28 absences per year.

“I think students will go to where we put that bar,” Garroutte said. “We need to show them it is important to be here.”

The district is also looking into Attendance Works and other resources to improve attendance rates. The district hopes to improve communication with parents, to ensure everyone is on the same page about the importance of school attendance on student success.