State audit finds minor issue with BSD’s absent student procedures

Published on Wed, May 16, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A state audit of the Blaine school district has found that school staff mistakenly reported 628 excused absences at the Blaine elementary and primary schools during the 2010/2011 school year.

The issue, which has since been resolved, stemmed from the way Blaine faculty logged absent students, district business manager Amber Porter said. The audit found Blaine’s primary and elementary schools mistakenly had an “excused” absence set as a default, meaning teachers would have to manually change the status for unexcused absences.

“By setting its system to automatically designate all absences as excused until the schools follow up on the cause of the absence,” Washington state audit officials wrote, “the district did not have adequate internal controls in place to ensure it accurately reports its unexcused absence rate to the state.”

Porter explained the primary and elementary school staff were simply unaware that absences were defaulting to excused rather than unexcused. The system default has since been changed, and the district will be training staff to ensure proper absence and attendance policies are followed.

Unexcused absentee figures are just one portion of data state educational officials use to make sure districts across the state are meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Inaccurate absentee data could negatively affect a given district’s AYP, leading to penalties.

Porter said she did not think the district’s inaccurate excused absentee figures would have negatively affected the district’s AYP. Even with the 628 unexcused absences mistakenly reported as excused, the district’s percentage of unexcused absences was 0.7 percent, below the state’s 1 percent benchmark.

The state audit found no issues with the district’s financial reports or procedures.