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About the Data - Habitual Truancy

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Overview

Habitual truants fall behind in their school work, and many drop out of school. Habitual truancy rates for students enrolled in Wisconsin public schools are available on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Website.

Where to Find Data about Habitual Truancy
School Years  WISEdash   School District 
 Performance Report 
 WINSS Historical 
 Data Files 
Beginning with 2007-08 -- X --
1996-97 through 2006-07 -- -- X

WINSS Data Analysis was DPI's primary public data portal for truancy information until fall 2014 when more recent years of WINSS truancy data by student group were migrated to the School District Performance Report (SDPR).

Habitual Truancy is reported annually for all public schools and districts statewide as part of the SDPR. Below you will find detailed background information, definitions, and related links to facilitate use and appropriate interpretation of habitual truancy data on the DPI Website.


Cautions

  1. Note that counts of habitual truants are for the entire school year, but enrollment counts are as of a single date in fall of that school year. For this reason, if a student group of interest is mobile or if recorded demographic group identification of individual students changes after the fall count date, then the reported habitual truancy rates will be distorted and could potentially exceed 100%.
  2. In comparing habitual truancy rates across districts, two key points should be considered.
    • Each district establishes its own policy for excused absences. So what is excused in one district might be unexcused in another (i.e., family trips, deer hunting, absences without written permission).
    • Schools may define "part of a day" in the definition of habitual truant (under 118.16(1)(a)) differently. For example, one district might state that any time unexcused over 15 minutes is "part of a day," whereas another district might define "part of a day" as 3 or more hours.
  3. In April 2013, a fix was implemented to resolve errors in 2010-11 truancy rates by grade. Truancy rates by grade that were downloaded or viewed before April 2013 are not reliable.
  4. If 2004-05 truancy rates for your district are much higher or lower than expected, then the likely cause is 2004-2005 student enrollment counts that don't reflect the district's full story. Major changes in WI student data collection systems were implemented in 2004-05. 2004-05 student enrollment counts were included in this transition year collection and are not comprehensive. If reported 2004-05 enrollment counts are higher or lower than actual counts, then truancy rates will be lower or higher than actual rates. This is because the truancy rate is the number of habitual truants divided by the K-12 enrollment. For more information, see cautions about the 2004-05 ISES enrollment data.
  5. Due to the change in the statutory definition of habitual truant, habitual truancy statistics beginning with the 1998-99 school year are not comparable to those from prior years. Because the current definition is more rigid than the former, most districts saw a rise in habitual truancy rates between school years 1997-98 and 1998-99.

Definitions of Key Terms

For definitions, see the WISEdash Glossary (includes terms used in SDPR and in WINSS historical files).


Calculating Rates

The habitual truancy rate, sometimes referred to as the truancy rate, is calculated by dividing the number of habitual truants for any given school year by K-12 3rd Friday of September enrollment for that school year, and expressing the quotient as a percentage. Habitual truants are reported for K-12, i.e. (5-year-old) kindergarten through grade 12. Although a habitual truant is defined in terms of a semester, districts submit only one incident per student per school year. In any given school year, a student is counted as a habitual truant in the school that the student was attending when s/he became a habitual truant.


Data Changes Over Time

  • Definition Change in 1998-99
    • Prior to 1998-89. An habitual truant is a student absent from school without an acceptable excuse [s.118.16(4) and s.118.15 Wis. Stats.] for part or all of five or more days out of 10 consecutive days on which school is held during a semester or part or all of 10 or more days on which school is held during a school semester.
    • Beginning with 1998-99. An habitual truant is a student absent from school without an acceptable excuse [s.118.16(4) and s.118.15 Wis. Stats.] for part or all of five or more days on which school is held during a semester. This definition is found in 118.16(1)(a), Wis. Stats.
  • Enrollment Data Source Change in 2004-05. For details, see Data Sources below.

Data Sources

Counts of habitual truants by school and by student group come from the School Performance Report Collection.

Enrollment counts (used as the denominator in calculating truancy rates) by school and by student group come from the following sources:

  • Prior to 2004-05, enrollment counts came from the PI 1290 fall enrollment collection.
  • Beginning with 2004-05, enrollment counts are based on Individual Student Enrollment System Count Date (3rd Friday of September) records.

Frequently Asked Questions about Habitual Truancy

  1. Is age a factor in reporting a student enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten as a habitual truant?
    No. Habitual truants are reported for (5-year-old) kindergarten through grade 12. Note in particular that a habitual truant student enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten, regardless of age, is reported as any other habitual truants would be. See 118.15 (1)(am) for more information about compulsory school attendance and students enrolled in kindergarten.
  2. Is a student who is suspended or expelled counted as habitually truant during their absence?
    No. According to s. 118.16(1m) Wis. Stats., the period during which a pupil is absent from school due to a suspension or expulsion under s. 120.13 or 119.25 is neither an absence without an acceptable excuse for the purposes of sub. (1) (a) nor an absence without legal cause for the purposes of sub. (1) (c).

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