State audit finds 6 schools did not comply with truancy laws, NCDPI disputes findings
The North Carolina Office of the State Auditor published a report yesterday that finds six public school districts did not comply with the state’s Truancy Law during the 2020-2021 school year, but the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is firing back.
The audit is in response to legislation from 2021, which gave the state auditor's a deadline of June 2022. The legislation was intended to help understand the scope of absenteeism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state auditor's office randomly selected six schools of different sizes — two large, two medium and two small. The report looked at Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Johnston, Robeson, Henderson, and Hyde County Schools.
The audit published yesterday finds the student attendance data provided by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) for five of the schools was not complete or accurate enough for a full analysis, but did conclude all six school districts did not perform required actions for students with three, six, and ten or more unexcused absences.
NCDPI strongly disputes the findings, the report's structure, and usefulness. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt says the report did not fulfill its purpose.
"Instead of recommendations to get students back to school, our agency and six of our school districts have been unnecessarily reprimanded," Catherine Pruitt, state superintendent of public instruction, said. "Much of how this report was conducted is an example of how state government time and taxpayer dollars and resources should not be used.”
The auditor's report did include recommendations. Most of the recommendations were to improve monitoring at the school, district, and state level.
In response, NCPI says policies were relaxed during the pandemic as school scrambled to adjust. How attendance is recorded is largely left to school districts. NCDPI adds that attendance data does not capture how chronically absent students were supported during the pandemic.
The issue of chronic absenteeism during and resulting from the pandemic is well documented. The nonprofit MyFutureNC found that nearly a third of North Carolina students missed 10% of school days during the 2020-21 school year.
NCDPI says the auditor's office "went far afield from the scope" of the legislation and that "early conversations with [the auditor's office] revealed a lack of understanding of the subject matter."
As for the completeness of the data, NCDPI says the auditor's office refused recommendations from the agency that could have produced simpler and accurate data.