Race and attendance numbers in CMS - | WBTV Charlotte

Race and attendance numbers in CMS

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

September is Attendance Awareness Month and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school (CMS) district is looking at race when it comes to students who are chronically absent.

The district recently sent out a tweet stating "Children of color are more likely to be chronically absent than peers." Many responded upset about the tweet claiming it wasn't a true picture of the district.

CMS gave WBTV attendance numbers. They report that 95% of all CMS students attend school regularly and 12% are chronically absent. Chronically absent is when a student misses more than three weeks of school in one year.

When you break down attendance numbers by race, African American students attend school regularly 94.6% of the time. 14% of African American students are chronically absent. Hispanic students attend school regularly 94.6% and 13.3% are chronically absent. Asian students attend school regularly 96.8% and are 6.7% are chronically absent.

When you look at all the students of color in CMS, on average they are 12% chronically absent while white students are 8.1% chronically absent. 
Many were expecting the gap to be wider after reading the tweet.

"I do apologize," CMS Board Chairperson Mary McCray said. "And I am sorry people took it the wrong way."

McCray saw the tweet and wants CMS to rethink the next time it tweets about attendance data.

"What I want us to start thinking about is," McCray said. "Maybe putting things in a more positive light. If you are going to tweet something out, tweet out the positive and say how can we can improve on this. So maybe that was a better way of doing it."

McCray also believes there is more 

"Sometimes for a high school student," McCray said. "That absenteeism could be because they're skipping "X" number of classes for that day or taken two classes and decided to go home, so it's counted as an absence."

The organization Communities in Schools is doing its part to help students stay in the classrooms. It helps about 6,000 CMS students and gives them the support they need to keep coming to school. The Executive Director Molly Shaw says efforts are working. Over the past year about 1000 students have decided to not dropout and stay in school.

"That's an astounding statistic," Shaw said. "And it's one that should be real encouraging for our community."

Despite that good news, there are some real challenges beyond the students' control that prevent students from attending school regularly.

"We've got kids who are not coming to school because they are ill," Shaw said. "Chronic illness is major. We may have students who are staying home to take care of a younger sibling and that's an issue. Students who live in poverty because they don't have a clean uniform to wear and they are embarrassed."

The community will soon be asked to participate in a dialogue that will help remove barriers for students not coming to school.

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