How DCSD is Addressing Truancy

Dropout Rate Declines: How DCSD is Addressing Truancy
Posted on 02/05/2020
Dropout Rate Declines
How DCSD is Addressing Truancy

PARKER - The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recently announced the 2019 on-time, four-year graduation rates of all Colorado school districts, with Douglas County School District (DCSD) coming in at 91.7 percent – an increase from its 2018 graduation rate of 90.8 percent. Just as DCSD’s graduation rate has improved, so has the school district’s dropout rate. In 2019, DCSD’s dropout rate also decreased from .7 percent in 2018 to .6 percent in 2019. More information on dropout rates can be found on the Colorado Department of Education website.

To better understand the challenges facing students who drop out, DCSD invited national truancy expert Dr. Chris Kearney from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to speak with school counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and administrators. Kearney led a four-hour professional development workshop on Friday, January 17 in Parker.
Dr. Chris Kearney, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
“The big three predictors of school dropout are called the A, B, Cs: attendance, behavioral issues, and course grades,” Kearney explained. “Chronic absenteeism is a good predictor of future dropouts, especially if it begins in middle school. [Combine that with a] failing grade in a core class like English or Math, as well as an office disciplinary referral, together those three are good predictors of 60 to 70 percent of eventual dropouts.”

A recent study conducted by the Douglas County Student Assistance Department used Kearney’s School Refusal Assessment Scale (SRAS) to assess chronic absenteeism across DCSD. Over half of habitually-truant DCSD students surveyed said they felt anxious or depressed by something at school and so avoided school altogether.

“Anxiety and depressive disorders are more predictive of school attendance kind of problems,” said Kearney. “You’ll also get kids with disruptive behavior problems, but that’s actually not as high a risk as emotional disorders.”

DCSD’s Counseling Team also felt Kearney’s workshop would be a valuable opportunity for other school districts and community partners. Aaron Ragon, DCSD Lead Counselor, invited several contemporaries from across Colorado: Dr. Samantha Haviland, Director of Counseling and College Success for Denver Public Schools; Joi Green, Counseling Coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools; and David West, Coordinator of Counseling Services for Aurora Public Schools.

“I’m happy to come to listen to experts,” said Haviland. “Truancy is an increasing problem that we’re seeing and it’s a very complex and difficult one to solve.”
Colorado Counselors Collaborate Together Why open the workshop to professionals outside of DCSD?

“I think there’s power in all of the districts collaborating together because we’re trying to take care of Colorado,” said Haviland. “The more we can help each other solve problems, the better.”

Beyond understanding the role mental health challenges play in school attendance, Kearney stressed: “It’s still important that parents value education and instill that in their kids from an early age and monitor their attendance on a regular basis.”

Families looking for support with attendance and absenteeism are encouraged to reach out to their school counselor or contact the DC Student Assistance Department at 303-387-0700.
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