Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

April 27th, 2016

Iowa Report Details Chronic Absence in the Early Grades

An analysis of absenteeism in Iowa of early-elementary students from the 2010-11 school year through third grade in 2013-14 shows that nearly 40 percent of elementary schools have rates of chronic absence among kindergartners in excess of 10 percent.

Using data on over 37,000 students, the Child Family Policy Center mapped the state’s early education attendance gaps in School Attendance Patterns in Iowa: Chronic Absence in the Early Grades. In the state, a student is considered chronically absent if he or she misses 10 percent or more of school days for any reason. In Iowa, that means 18 days or more in a 180-day school year, the equivalent of nearly a month of school.

With support from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, CFPC analyzed the Iowa Department of Education’s longitudinal data system. The Iowa analysis shows:

  • Chronic absenteeism starts early with 9 percent of the state’s kindergartners —over 3,500 children—missing too much school. The chronic absence rate then improved through third grade, when 4.5 percent of the same cohort, or nearly 1,500 children, missed 10 percent or more of the school days.
  • Low-income students were three to four times more likely than their peers to be chronically absent across all four school years (2010-14). In kindergarten, 15.4 percent of chronically absent students were eligible for the free lunch program, compared to 4.7 percent of not eligible for the program.
  • Children of color are more likely than peers to miss 10 percent or more of the school year. About 30 percent (29.4%) of Native American and (29.3%) Pacifica Islander students, 20 percent of black students, and 15.3 percent of Hispanic students were chronically absent, compared to 7.5 percent of their white counterparts. At the same time, white kids constituted the largest number of chronically absent students.
  • Students receiving special education services were two to three times more likely to be chronically absent than their peers.

“Given the focus in our state on improving educational outcomes, and with new third grade retention requirements looming next year, this is an issue that merits focused attention,” said Anne Discher, a senior research associate with CFPC. “This report shows a small but significant group of early-elementary students in Iowa is missing substantial amounts of school. A kid who is not at school is a kid who is not learning.”

We’re excited by this report because it highlights the importance of being in school every day possible in the early grades, and the negative impact that too many absences can have on a student’s achievement.

The report states: “Students who have been chronically absent during any year of their early-elementary schooling are less likely than their peers who rarely miss school to be reading proficiently by the end of third grade, an important marker for future academic success. … Among students in this cohort who took the Iowa Assessments in third grade (2013-14 school year), those with regular attendance in each of the early-elementary years were nearly twice as likely to be proficient [in reading] as those who were chronically absent two or more years. They were half again as likely to be proficient as their peers who had been chronically absent one of the four years.”

We also appreciate the report’s spotlight on efforts of communities in the Grade Level Reading Campaign to improve school attendance in the early years in Iowa. “In Iowa, the Campaign is engaging communities across the state around strategies to assure every child is reading proficiently by third grade and specifically around strategies to reduce chronic absence,” the report notes. The communities working with GLR and its focus on attendance “have kick started interest in this issue in Iowa. This group of communities are establishing—and sharing with peers—a variety of exemplary practices.”

Already, 11 GLR Campaign communities in Iowa have begun focusing on attendance as a key strategy to help all students read by 3rd grade. Here’s an example from Council Bluffs:

In Council Bluffs Schools Superintendent Martha Bruckner set a goal for the district to increase the number of students who attend school 95 percent of the time. And she asked the entire community to help.

Within a year, Council Bluffs Community School District met its goal of having 80% of preschool children with less than 5% absenteeism rate, up from 76.5% in 2012-13. For kindergarten students, the percentage increased from 66.57% to 72.91%. Every elementary and middle school had an average daily attendance rate greater than 96 percent in 2013-14. Click here to read the full profile of Council Bluffs’ attendance activities.

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April 19th, 2016

First National Conference on Chronic Absenteeism is Taking Shape

The first Every Student, Every Day National Conference on chronic absenteeism will take place in Washington, D.C. this June. The two-day meeting is designed to support states, districts, schools, and communities in their work to develop effective chronic absenteeism policy and practice. The conference will also showcase a variety of approaches, with a particular focus on cross-sector efforts that address students and families’ education, health, housing, and justice-related needs.

The US Department of Education (ED) is hosting the conference in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice. ED is reaching out to educators, community members and others interested in joining the effort to reduce chronic absenteeism to submit a proposal for a 75-minute workshop presented during the conference. ED has just extended the deadline for workshop proposals to Monday, April 25, 2016.

The workshop proposals should address one or more of the federal chronic absenteeism guidance action steps listed on the proposal invitation. Click here to find out more about the proposal criteria and the application process.

Attendance Works is a partner in the development of the national conference, and sees it as an important opportunity to share information and guidance that can help inform effective chronic absenteeism policy and practice. These steps, based on multi-tiered, cross-sector early warning and response systems, will help to address the challenges of daily attendance so that all students are able to attend school every day possible.

The conference is open only to those serving on the state teams, but there are ways that you can become involved. The Healthy Schools Campaign has described a number of opportunities to get involved and ensure your state is participating in the conference. Below are a few of HSC’s suggestions on how to support the conference.

  • Contact your state officials to determine if they plan to send a cross-sector state team to the conference to represent your state.
  • Submit a proposal to present at a conference workshop.
  • Create or join a state team.

You can read HSC’s full blog here.

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January 20th, 2016

ESSA Guidance Should Focus On Effective Use of Chronic Absence Data

The US Department of Education invited comments on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Obama on Dec. 10, 2015. After reaching out to our partners for input, we submitted recommendations for the creation of guidance around the chronic absence provisions in the new law. The ESSA requires that states report chronic absenteeism rates, and allows districts to spend federal dollars on training to reduce absenteeism.

The comments encourage the DOE to create guidance that we believe will ensure the effective use of chronic absence data. You can see a summary of our comments below. Click here to read the full comments that we submitted on Jan. 21, 2016. Several partners built upon our recommendations to craft their own. You can also read the comments from California’s Attorney General.

Our comments reflect our delight that the ESSA recognizes that no one measure of success is sufficient for examining whether a school is effectively meeting the needs of its students. In particular, we appreciate the requirement that schools must report on chronic absence (missing too much school for any reason). Armed with this information, schools—often together with community partners—can help students get the additional supports they need to overcome barriers to getting to school. After all, students will only benefit from our investments in high quality instruction and teaching if they are in the classroom.

Our recommendations include:

1. Encourage districts to take an early warning approach. Advise schools to monitor when students miss 10% or more of school and use those data to trigger intervention throughout the year. Guidance should recommend that districts provide reports to schools on which and how many students are at risk of missing too much school on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, if not in real time. Timely access to such data is essential to prevention and early intervention.

2. Adopt a common 10% reporting requirement. One challenge with the 15-day measure is that it does not correspond to the 10% definition cited by other federal agencies (for example, in the newly launched Federal initiative on chronic absenteeism, Every Student, Every Day) and already being used by numerous states. Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee have already begun producing reports on how many students are missing 10% or more of school. A common reporting requirement would reduce confusion as well as allow for better comparisons across states and localities.

3. Encourage school districts to message to families about the impact of chronic absence. School districts must allocate at least 1% of Title I dollars for parent engagement. Encourage districts to use these resources to help parents understand why daily attendance matters and what steps they can take to nurture a habit of attendance as well as get help with addressing barriers to getting to school.

4. Encourage schools to incorporate attention to attendance into a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). Such an approach will encourage schools to focus on prevention and early intervention and leverage a framework that many educators are familiar with. Title II funding could be used to support such professional development.

5. Encourage districts to identify and enlist community agencies in addressing chronic absence. Encourage districts to forge partnerships with public agencies and non-profits. Include information about how data can be shared without violating confidentiality requirements.

6. Support the inclusion of chronic absence data in school report cards. Such information is essential to helping parents understand what is happening in schools and for helping community partners identify schools in need of their resources.

7. Promote the reporting of chronic absence by grade level. Such data are critical to targeting interventions to the students who are struggling the most. Without grade level breakouts, school districts can easily overlook high levels of chronic absence starting in kindergarten and first grade. Chronic absence is typically highest in these early elementary grades, which are so critical to the development of key academic and social skills needed to succeed in school. Such patterns are easily masked when examining data for an entire elementary school, since children in the older grades typically have much better attendance.

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