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PUSD clerical error exacerbated truancy rates

City News Service | 10/17/2013, 12:41 p.m.

After reporting Los Angeles County’s highest truancy rate last year, the Pasadena Unified School District now says it made a clerical error and that its truancy rates are in fact much lower than originally stated, it was reported today.

Though the exact cause of the misreporting is still unclear, the truancy numbers Pasadena principals turned into the district were different than the numbers the California Department of Education received from the district to perform its calculations, district spokesman Adam Wolfson said in remarks quoted by the Los Angeles Times. Pasadena Unified’s truancy rate was put at 66 percent, compared to 32.4 percent in the county and 28.5 percent in the state.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris declared California’s truancy rates “an attendance crisis” because one in four elementary school students was considered truant last school year. The truancy rate is calculated as the number of students in a school who are absent for more than 30 minutes on three days in a school year without a valid excuse.

In Pasadena, Altadena Elementary, Cleveland Elementary and San Rafael Elementary all had truancy rates over 90 percent, according to the original numbers. The new calculations put them at 58.6 percent, 37.2 percent and 79.4 percent, respectively.

The district cannot submit the revised data to the California Department of Education because the correction period has passed, according to Wolfson. As of Tuesday, the district had calculated updated numbers for the majority of its schools, with about a dozen more to finish sorting out, he said.