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Pinellas County School Board plans forum on absenteeism problem

The Pinellas School Board will hold a forum at Northeast High School Monday night to get community input on students who are chronically absent.

State data shows Pinellas students were absent from school in 2010-2011 at a higher rate than students in any other Florida district with an enrollment of more than 100,000.

According to the state Department of Education, 13 percent of Pinellas students last year were absent for 21 or more days over the course of the school year.

The forum will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Northeast High School, 5500 16th Street N in St. Petersburg.

"This data calls for immediate action," Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, wrote in a letter to superintendent John Stewart and school board members. "Teachers have been stating that something is dramatically wrong regarding student attendance. This problem is not new."

In March, Black asked the district to create a task force to look at the problem, but said she's heard and seen nothing in response. The ramifications of student absenteeism could be as significant for teachers as for their students, she said.

"With strong emphasis placed on high-stakes testing in order to drive student achievement, assign school grades, evaluate teachers and distribute performance pay, the critical missing link in all of these discussions is student attendance," Black wrote on May 23. "Not to mention the high cost of low graduation rates. We must look at the data and develop policies that support accountability and learning."

In response to Black's email, Stewart wrote back that he had asked staff attorney Laurie Dart to report to him how truancy and absenteeism is handled in the district and also planned to form a committee to "investigate the issue and make recommendations for potential implementation."

Around the state

Here's a look at the number and percentage of students in 2010-11 who were absent 21 days or more in districts with more than 100,00 students.

DistrictEnrollmentNumber absentPercent absent
Palm Beach199,06011,8105.9%

Source: Florida Department of Education

Pinellas County School Board plans forum on absenteeism problem 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 4:31am]
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