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Cleveland Municipal Schools Making Progress with Attendance Tracking, Improvements Still Needed
Many Excused Absences Still Lack Proper Documentation
A state audit issued today by Auditor of State Mary Taylor indicates that although the Cleveland Municipal School District has taken steps to correct an attendance reporting issue, the district is still not adhering to proper policies. The district’s audit for 2005, released last year, found the district was reporting student absences as “excused” when in fact the district lacked the proper documentation to deem them excused. As part of the audit released today, Taylor’s office revisited the matter and found that attendance reporting problems still exist.
“Although the district has made significant improvements toward resolving attendance reporting problems, we still have concerns,” Taylor said. “Because school funding is largely based on attendance, it is essential that schools properly track student attendance and keep appropriate documentation of excused absences.”
Schools receive funding significantly based on attendance figures compiled during the first full week in October. These figures are reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Excused absences are accepted as part of a district’s attendance figure. Unexcused absences may not be used in the calculation. In order for an absence to be considered excused, it must include documentation from a parent or guardian stating the reason for the student’s absence. Phone calls to and from the parent or guardian should also be included as documentation.
A student may be excused for personal illness, illness in the family, quarantine of the home, death of a relative, observance of a religious holiday, or emergency circumstances which the school superintendent judges are good and sufficient cause. Any other reason or an absence that does not include documentation is considered unexcused.
In an internal audit conducted by Cleveland schools and issued in April 2006, the district found that 2,085 excused absences reported to ODE in fact lacked proper documentation. As a result of these errors the district resubmitted its attendance data to ODE.
These errors occurred despite the district having a comprehensive policy regarding student attendance tracking. Taylor’s audit recommends all schools in the Cleveland Municipal School District follow their policies and procedures and work diligently to ensure all excused absences are documented correctly in accordance with their manual. The district had no other findings in today’s audit. Attendance tracking was also the only finding in last year’s audit.
A full copy of the audit is available online here.