Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

April 8th, 2015

California school districts recognized for attendance improvements

In Long Beach, chronic absence rates dropped from nearly 20 percent to 10 percent. In Berkeley, attendance rates increased from 92 percent to 94.6 percent at one high school. In Hayward, school leaders have enlisted partners from police officers to store owners to promote good attendance.

The school districts were among 11 California districts and counties recognized by the state for School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) that are taking a “progressive, data-driven approach to absenteeism.”

“In California, we have a group of exceptional SARBs using data-driven strategies to reduce their chronic absenteeism rates, improve overall attendance, and reduce dropout rates,” said state Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson. “You can have the best facilities, the best teachers, and the best curriculum in the world, but none of that matters if students are not in school.”

In California, every district and county office of education must set up a SARB to identify and assist students with attendance problems. Schools refer students and families for for SARB hearings when they cannot resolve attendance or behavior problems. The model SARBs were recognized for doing a good job collaborating with the community, tracking chronic absence and improving attendance rates districtwide.

“We are making progress with a greater awareness of how chronic absenteeism in the early grades contributes to the state’s dropout problem, and we are excited about how this early identification and intervention will lead to lower dropout rates,” Torlakson said in a statement.

Long Beach officials credited outreach to families to help with barriers–such as health, transportation and housing–for reducing chronic absence. The local prosecutor’s office works with families of chronically truant students. Hayward and Berkeley describe emphasizing chronic absence, starting in the early grades. In the Corona-Norco Unified School District, administrators are using Attendance Works data tools to track chronic absence rates by school site, grades and other factors.

The full list of districts recognized for Model School Attendance Review Board programs include:

  1. Alhambra Unified School District
  2. Berkeley Unified School District.
  3. Colton Joint Unified School District
  4. Corona-Norco Unified School District
  5. El Dorado County Office of Education
  6. Escondido Union School District
  7. Grossmont Union High School District
  8. Hayward Unified School District
  9. Jurupa Unified School District
  10. Long Beach Unified School District
  11. San Juan Unified School District

The model SARBs are expected to serve as mentors to help other county and district programs improve their chronic absenteeism rates, attendance rates, and dropout rates. Awards will be presented April 24 at the State Conference of the California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance in Napa.


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April 6th, 2015

Webinar? Make it a party!

We hope you’re signed up for the free Ready, Set Go! webinar on April 15 that launches planning for Attendance Awareness Month. If you are, consider turning it into an opportunity to connect educators with community partners. In the past, several communities have hosted webinar parties, projecting the slides on a big screen and then talking afterwards about how they can apply what they heard. It can work as a conference call, too. You can host your event on the day of the webinar or later on when they audio tape is available.

Attendance Works has created a discussion guide for the webinar that will help you lead the conversation. The speakers will address:

  • How California’s Attorney General is promoting awareness and action to reduce chronic absence and prevent students from ever becoming involved in the legal system
  • How the United Way and school districts in the Pittsburgh area leveraged Attendance Awareness Month to launch a county-wide Be There! campaign with year-long supports in targeted schools
  • How the Council Bluffs school district in Iowa used its local campaign to engage state policymakers and initiate interventions in schools

Register here for webinar, and be sure to sign up here to receive regular updates and resources.

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March 27th, 2015

Principal Profile: Adamant about Attendance

For an under-resourced school struggling with low attendance rates, the challenges can be great. But when you’re a tight-knit campus that is “adamant” about attendance, you go to equally great lengths to turn things Snip20150206_6around.

“Adamant” is how Principal Enomwoyi Booker describes the commitment to improving attendance at PLACE @ Prescott Elementary in West Oakland. Over the past four years, this focus has created a remarkable shift; since 2009-10, chronic absence at PLACE has dropped from 31% to 16%.

Among the school’s predominantly African American students, progress has been even more dramatic, with rates down from 32% to 13%. Booker believes improved attendance has had an impact on academic achievement. In 2012, PLACE’s California Standards Test (CST) scores in Science showed some of the greatest improvement in Oakland, with an 11 percentage-point increase in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced.

How did PLACE @ Prescott make these strides?

Personalized outreach

Booker and the school’s teachers and support staff have gone the extra mile to connect with families of frequently absent students. Home visits show families how important the school considers attendance and often lead to solutions that make a big difference. In one case, the school wound up buying an alarm clock for a tardy student’s older sibling so he could help his brother get to school on time. “We have these conversations on the porch, or through the car window at the curbside if a child’s dropped off late to school,” explains Booker. “We break it down, figure out how we can help, then do whatever it takes.”

Family to family

Booker says other parents have also been essential partners in the attendance cause. “We have great parent leaders and liaisons who’ve been able to explain to other parents how important regular attendance is,” says Booker. On a campus like PLACE with several long-time staff and so many families that know each other, “teachers and parent leaders have gained trust in the community, and families will connect with each other to make sure kids are at school on time. There’s always somebody who can help somebody else out.”

Sharing data

Just as all parts of the school community share the job of doing outreach around attendance, they also share the data. Truancy and chronic absence lists are used school wide, for coordination of services, individualized student plans, and after-school participants. In this way, PLACE @ Prescott has integrated attendance work across the school.

On-site health services

As in many Oakland schools, health factors – especially asthma – are a major barrier to attendance at PLACE. To address this, Booker says, “We try to offer as many support services here as we can.” The campus hosts a monthly Breath Mobile for students with asthma, plus a dental clinic and vision screening. If students are missing chunks of the day due to doctor appointments, teachers encourage parents to schedule appointments at the very beginning or end of the day whenever possible.

The long road to school

Twenty percent of PLACE @ Prescott students live outside the immediate neighborhood, making transportation an issue both daily and during registration time. To spare families a trip to the District offices, PLACE arranges for on-site enrollment during the summer so that kids are squared away before the first day of school.

Excitement as incentive

While PLACE honors students with perfect attendance in a hallway photo display and with certificates, Booker says the real key is the school’s culture and curriculum. “It’s a calm, warm, inviting place,” she says. “Kids are excited about learning, and we offer as many opportunities as we can for kids to have different experiences. That’s also a draw. We’re a STEM school, with hands-on science, and kids are excited about that. They don’t want to miss school because they might miss out on science or our arts program. They want to be here.”

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