Chronically absent students are less likely to read on grade level at the end of third grade . 9 Chronic absenteeism in high school grades can also pull students off track toward graduation and postsecondary success . According to TDOE data , 16 percent of Tennessee ninth-graders were chronically absent in 2015-16 .
Some of Tennessee ’ s chronic absenteeism rates may be tied to exclusionary disciplinary practices that remove students from class through suspensions and expulsions . One in five ninth-graders experiences a suspension or expulsion , and one in ten misses at least a week of school because of a disciplinary action . Although expulsions have declined 80 percent over the past four years , more than 63,000 students missed school time in 2015 because of disciplinary infractions . 10
FIGURE 21 . PERCENTAGE OF TENNESSEE STUDENTS RECEIVING SUSPENSIONS AND EXPULSIONS , 2015-16
All Students Black / Hispanic / Native American
Students With Disabilities
Source : Tennessee Department of Education , 2016
In 2015-16 , 24 percent of Tennessee students identified as African American . Statewide , 60 percent of all suspensions and 64 percent of all expulsions were experienced by African American students .
Source : Tennessee Department of Education , 2015-16 State Report Card .
The reduction in exclusionary discipline has not been uniform , either across all schools or between all student groups . Just 150 of the state ’ s more than 1,800 schools accounted for half of all disciplinary exclusions . These schools tend to be composed of students who are economically disadvantaged , low-achieving , or African American . African American ninth-graders are subject to exclusionary discipline at a rate over six times higher than the rest of ninth-grade students .
State and national assessment data show Tennessee has made some progress in narrowing achievement gaps — particularly for students with disabilities , English learners , and in urban districts . However , stark gaps in proficiency remain across income levels , racial and ethnic populations , geographic location , and student needs . Ensuring more equitable opportunities for all students , particularly underserved students , will drive continued progress toward more equitable outcomes . This work should better prepare more students for postsecondary and career success .