Archive for the ‘Featured Article’ Category

July 14th, 2017

Educators respond to immigration policies

Educators in states across the country are seeing that current immigration policy changes are leading to increased chronic absence. As a way to reassure parents and students that school is a safe place for learning, states, districts and schools have posted resources as a way to encourage immigrant students to continue getting to school every day. We’ve collected a few for you.

Resources range from letters sent to school communities and families reaffirming anti-discrimination polices, to toolkits with tips for dealing with anxious students, to videos for parents on how to communicate with their young children on topics that are particularly difficult to tackle, such as bullying. Watch this video, in Spanish with English subtitles, from Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors.

Many districts offer fact sheets with answers to questions such as, ‘What impact does undocumented immigration status have on my child’s education?’ and ‘If I am a parent or guardian and I am worried about being detained while my child is at school, what should I do?’

Educators are careful when clarifying that the resources aren’t meant to express a particular political belief or viewpoint. The Contra Costa County Office of Education‘s Communications Department, for example, noted that the resources on its website are provided as “a helpful tool in communicating the message of compassion and support for students so that they know they are safe and can continue to learn, lead and achieve to the best of their abilities.”

We know that 6.8 million students were chronically absent in the 2013-14 school year. Studies show that missing just 10 percent or more of school – just two days per month – predicts lower levels of numeracy and literacy by third grade, class failure in middle school and higher likelihood of high school dropout. It also indicates that students will have lower levels of persistence in college.

“We are hearing about immigrant families being so fearful that they don’t want to send their kids to school,” says Hedy N. Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. “Being in class every day is critical for academic achievement. We know that all students are more likely to come to school, and parents are more likely to take their kids to school, when they feel their school is a safe place for learning.”

In states such as California, with the most diverse population in the country, as well as Connecticut and New York, state education chiefs released letters committing to protect student privacy, to educate all students regardless of immigration status and offering educators guidance on how to proceed. “My strongest commitment to you, your students and their families is that schools remain safe places to learn,” California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wrote in a letter to local educational agencies (LEAs).

District superintendents sent letters to reassure families and students. And school boards adopted resolutions limiting the ability of immigration agents to enter campuses and the collection of information about immigration status. In one example, Superintendent Nancy Sarra of Consolidated School district of New Britain, Connecticut sent a letter pledging support for New Britain’s immigrant and refugee students and their families.

Here is a sampling of school district resources designed to inform teachers, immigrant families and students about their legal rights:

Other organizations have resources and information about services available to immigrant and refugee families affected by policy changes. Here is a sample:

Check out the websites of local and state educators in your community to find out what resources are available!

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June 14th, 2017

Celebrating the Catalytic Role of Philanthropy

On June 13th and 14th, Attendance Works participated in the 2017 Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Funder Huddle in Denver. The Huddle brought together over 200+ executives and program officers from family and community foundations, United Ways and corporate giving programs, and provided an invaluable opportunity for funders to exchange ideas about how to address chronic absence as part of a comprehensive strategy for ensuring young children ready by the third grade. As the mini-plenary closing speaker on June 14th, Hedy Chang, Attendance Works’ Executive Director, shared how this is a watershed moment during which states and communities have the opportunity to leverage the changes in federal law to address chronic absence.

The mini-plenary, Chronic Absence as a Policy-Worthy Lever for Change, offered an especially robust forum for sharing ideas. The speakers focused on the many states working to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are adopting chronic absence as an indicator of school quality or student success. The ESSA requires states to measure school quality and improves on the No Child Left Behind Act by allowing states and districts to round out their accountability rubrics with measures beyond test scores. In addition to meeting ESSA accountability requirements, the inclusion of chronic absence in state accountability rubrics also provides real opportunities for states, districts and philanthropists to achieve the goals of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, to increase the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently at the end of third grade. As this chart shows, 14 out of the 17 officially submitted ESSA plans includes chronic absence.

A key theme was the value of using data to show the impact of chronic absence on student achievement. Speakers also showed how data can help schools and communities to notice and take action when students are missing so much school they are academically at risk.

This timely discussion featured Candice McQueen, Education Commissioner for Tennessee, Carey Wright, State Superintendent for Mississippi Department of Education, Candice McQueen, Education Commissioner for Tennessee, Charlene Russell-Tucker, Chief Operating Officer for the Connecticut State Department of Education and Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Equally important, the forum created an opportunity for Attendance Works to showcase the role that philanthropy can play in reducing chronic absence by honoring Jim Williamson, President of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. Jim’s commitment and passion for children has had a catalytic influence and played a critical role in launching and sustaining the New Britain, Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

In particular, Jim’s leadership led New Britain educators to use data to realize they had a problem with chronic absence, and encouraged them bring together key stakeholders to identify and implement solutions. The resulting practices and dramatic reductions in chronic absence in New Britain have had ripple effects across Connecticut and ultimately the nation. “Connecticut is the first state in the nation to show consistent reductions in chronic absence for three years in a row,” Hedy said. “Jim Williamson serves as an inspiring example of how philanthropy, especially a local community foundation can have an enduring impact on improving outcomes for children.”

As the mini-plenary closing speaker, Hedy shared how today is in a watershed moment during which states and communities have the opportunity to leverage the changes accompanying the shift from No Child Left Behind to ESSA. In particular, the changes in the education law can support using chronic absence as a diagnostic tool for identifying and addressing barriers to learning and helping to target the use of community resources. “The key is ensuring policy makers and schools take a supportive rather than punitive framework,” Hedy told participants.

Hedy offered a number of recommendations to funders including:

  • Find out if chronic absence is in your state’s ESSA plan or state reports
  • Promote use of chronic absence as a diagnostic tool for identifying and addressing barriers to learning, especially for vulnerable students
  • Convene stakeholders to review data and develop solutions
  • Identify key grantees who can advance the issue in your community and state
  • Build public awareness, understanding and a sense of urgency for reducing chronic absence
  • Encourage local superintendents to sign up for the Attendance Awareness Month Call to Action and play a leadership role

Especially prepared for the GLR Campaign, this brief Leveraging ESSA’s New Accountability Requirements for Chronic Absence: Investment Recommendations for Philanthropy offers additional insights and ideas.

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April 17th, 2017

It Takes Two: May 23 Webinar!

When a student misses 10 percent of school days, how can schools and communities make sure that there is personalized early outreach to students and families? What does it look like when students are supported with an effective action plan that addresses the reasons for their absences?webinarmemesmayv2-01 copy

It Takes Two: Adding Early Intervention Strategies to Address Chronic Absence is the second in the AAC2017 webinar series. During this free webinar, on Tuesday, May 23 (11:00 am – 12:30 pm PT / 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm ET), you’ll hear what teachers, mentors, school nurses and other caring adults can do to identify and help students improve attendance as soon as they show signs of falling off track.

Join in with questions for our Speakers:

  •         Lysette Lemay, Parent Teacher Home Visits (PTHV)
  •         Donna Mazyck, National Association of School Nurses (NASN)
  •         Terri Helm-Remund, Seattle Public Schools
  •       Linda Amica-Roberts, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and
  •      Cecelia Leong, Attendance Works

The webinar will provide a range of answers to the question: What else can or should we do for the students for whom universal supports aren’t enough to help them attend school regularly? Each community and program featured on the webinar will have strong Tier 1 strategies in place, such as recognizing and rewarding attendance improvements, creating a welcoming school environment and monitoring chronic absence data to identify common barriers.

This September, as we celebrate Attendance Awareness Month, we have the opportunity help all students build the essential skill of showing up on time every day. Don’t miss out! Register now

Special Note: We are likely to exceed the webinar room capacity of 500! Please note that once you register you will receive the webinar recording, PowerPoint slides and other materials whether you attend or not. You might consider organizing a separate session to watch with a group using the recording and discussion guide. Guests are welcome to log in 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the webinar on May 23.

Each webinar in this year’s series builds on the previous one. If you missed the first webinar, Reducing Chronic Absence: It’s a Matter of 1, 2, 3!, click here and scroll down for the archived recording and materials.

Save the dates for the remaining Attendance Awareness Month webinars for 2017: August 8 and September 12.

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