House bill would ensure school attendance makes the grade
State Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) says five little words could make a world of difference for Illinois schoolchildren.
At a House Appropriations Elementary & Secondary Education Committee hearing last month, Pritchard presented House Bill 3059 to amend the school code and require districts to include a breakdown of average daily student attendance by grade level on their district report card.
“This is a very simple bill that is introduced to follow up on the discussion that the Governor’s Funding Commission Task Force found in its study of the evidence-based model, that the State Board of Education currently isn’t collecting student attendance data by grade level,” Pritchard said. “What this bill does now, with the amendment, is under the Section F – that deals with compilation of average daily attendance – simply adds the words ‘for each grade level served’ in what the school district must collect and report to the state board.”
Currently, districts are reporting only an aggregate figure.
“They’ll tell you how many students attended the school in the time period that they specified,” Pritchard said. “They can either use an average of the best months or a three-year average. That’s what districts are doing now.”
Pritchard asserts that the amendment is important for determining best practices to fulfill the needs of students.
“What we found in the Governor’s Commission was the fact that if you look at the best practices, there are certain practices that you want to do based on the number of students in a grade.” he said. “So, the number of teachers or the number of support staff that would serve [them] is based on the numbers of students in that grade. We’re trying to collect that data because we currently don’t have it at that level of specificity.”
Collecting grade-level attendance would be especially important for any future education funding model, Pritchard said.
“The purpose of this is for the state board to start collecting this information should the legislature choose to, in a new funding model, look at the class size in determining what resources that district needs,” he said. “It doesn’t require any other action or inclusion.”
Pritchard offered assurance that the amendment is not meant to takes away funds from a school district or move funds from one district to another. Its intent, he said, is to provide better education.
“You don’t know how many students there are in the first grade unless we collect the data,” he said. “It ties to the best practices that have been found from research in providing for the needs of students in the school district.”
HB 3059 was adopted by the committee and is awaiting a second reading on the House floor.