Simplified: A look at five years of attendance data shows that thousands of Sioux Falls students are missing too much school.

Why it matters:

  • Students who miss more school are more likely to be called to the office for behavioral issues. They're also more likely to have a lower grade-point average, according to Sioux Falls School District data.
  • There's also the obvious concern from district administrators that kids who miss school are missing out on learning.
  • Looking at the last five years, Assistant Superintendent Jamie Nold estimated that more than 3,200 K-12 students are missing at least 10 percent of school days.
  • Side note: Nold also notes the five-year data is skewed because of virtual learning during the pandemic. He said the actual number is likely higher.
"The more (absent) days the child has, the more at risk they are for academic failure or less progress than we want them to have," Superintendent Jane Stavem told board members last week.

How are you defining 'missing too much school'?

It's really called "chronic absenteeism," but that's super jargon-y.

The South Dakota Department of Education defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent or more of enrolled days in the school year.

In Sioux Falls, that 10 percent amounts to about 17 school days.

How can the district get kids back in school?

There's no silver bullet solution, as is the case with most school-related struggles.

However, the district is looking at four channels they can use to improve attendance rates. Those include:

  • The Sioux Falls School District itself, by way of community engagement, parent education, attendance campaigns and more busing options.
  • Local support from the city, business partnerships and community mentors.
  • Legal support by working with the district attorney's office and courts to establish clear expectations for the legal consequences of truancy.
  • Re-evaluating state law. This is the option the district has the least control over, but schools statewide have struggled with how to manage truancy since juvenile justice reforms several years ago. No one wants to go back to locking up kids for nonviolent crimes, but district officials would like more resources to address attendance issues.