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2024-25 Budget Update: Importance of BOE Funding to Address Test Results and Chronic Absenteeism

2024-25 Budget Update: Importance of BOE Funding to Address Test Results and Chronic Absenteeism
NPS Communications

The funds appropriated to the Norwalk Board of Education for FY 2023-24 accounted for 53.5% of the City of Norwalk’s operating budget. Under the current tentative spending budget cap for FY 2024-25, the percentage would be the same.

Norwalk Public Schools is committed to budgeting those appropriated funds to achieve the priorities outlined in our strategic plan, particularly in terms of providing high-quality instruction and support for our scholars.

Overall, it is true that Norwalk Public Schools has seen its English/Language Arts (ELA) test results fall between 2019 and 2023 according to the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments. The state has also seen declines in ELA test results over this time period. What the scores published on the website don’t show are the district’s gains among grade level cohorts matched between 2022 and 2023 (see chart below).

Among all students moving from grades 3 to 4 (indicated in green on the chart), 4 to 5 (indicated in blue), and 6 to 7 (indicated in yellow) between 2022 and 2023, we saw the percent proficient increase for their ELA scores. The results are even better for our high needs students, who make up 66% of the students tested in the district. High needs students moving from grades 3 to 4, 4 to 5, 6 to 7, and 7 to 8 (indicated in gray) all saw their percent proficient results increase for ELA.

 High needs students accounted for 66% of SBAC test takers in Norwalk Public Schools compared to 54% in the state.


The increase in chronic absenteeism is also a nationwide trend. Norwalk Public Schools has worked hard to address our own rates of chronic absenteeism. Between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, the district’s chronic absenteeism rate dropped from 29.6% to 21.0%. The rate has dropped again this year to 20.4%.

Norwalk is now on par with the state rate which is 19% this year. Between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, the state’s chronic absenteeism rate dropped from 23.7% to 20.0%.

Despite the improvement, the district is not satisfied with this high rate of chronic absenteeism and more work needs to be done to see that this recent decline is the beginning of a new trend that ultimately bolsters an academic recovery.

Nationwide, chronic absenteeism increased from 15% in 2018 to 28% in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education and compiled by Return 2 Learn Tracker. Return 2 Learn also stated the rate “remained high in 2023.”

A study conducted by The Hechinger Report, a national nonprofit newsroom reporting only on education topics, found that 1 out of 4 students have been chronically absent since the pandemic which accounts for three lost weeks of instruction a year for more than 10 million school children. Among lower income students, the rate is 1 out of 3 that are chronically absent.

The study found multiple reasons for students not coming to school including students who are bullied, students who have asthma and their parents worry about health issues, and others who have fallen so far behind in their schoolwork that they can’t understand what’s being taught in their classroom.