Archive for the ‘State News’ 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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October 28th, 2016

CA’s AG Finds 7.3% of Elementary Students Chronically Absence

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has released a new report showing that 7.3 percent of elementary students in California missed 10 percent of the school year in 2015-16. The report —which draws from a sample of almost 500,000 students from nearly 200 districts—also describes significant progress being made as districts take action to improve attendance. screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-12-06-12-pm

In School + On Track 2016 is California’s fourth annual report on chronic absence, and pulls from data over the past four years beginning with the 2012-13 school year. The numbers paint a portrait of a state that still faces an attendance crisis, with an estimated 210,000 students in kindergarten though 5th grade missing almost one full month of school. Chronic absenteeism is most prevalent among African American, low-income, special education and highly mobile students such as homeless and foster youth.

The data also illustrate that early attendance patterns can affect a child’s academic achievement. For example, 75 percent of students who were chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade failed to meet California’s state standards in math and English language arts in the 3rd grade.

“Chronically absent children are far more likely to drop out of high school and enter the criminal justice system,” Harris said. “This is a solvable problem: with better data, monitoring, and communication with parents, we can continue to make significant strides towards ensuring students are in school and on track to meet their full potential.”

In School + on Track cites a number of steps taken in Calfornia to improve chronic absenteeism, such as:

  • Ninety-nine percent of districts surveyed have, or plan to, put in place policies and programs designed to improve attendance this year.
  • Forty-seven percent of districts (up from 18 percent in 2014) included chronic absence data in their Local Control Accountability Plans, which outline how districts will improve student outcomes.
  • Eighty-five percent (up from 12 percent in the 2013) of districts reported that they track attendance over time. This step allows teachers and administrators to find the students who are missing too many days, and to craft interventions to help overcome barriers to being in school every day.
  • Discipline policies are changing: 34 percent of districts surveyed said they have changed their attendance policies to reduce suspensions.

School suspensions also increased the state’s attendance crisis, the report notes. Suspensions have an oversized impact on boys, low-income students and children with special needs. The report also finds that while African America students make up just 5 percent of the elementary school population, they represent 22 percent of all suspensions.

The report includes a description of recent changes in collecting and tracking student attendance in California policy as well as new chronic absence reporting requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

New Policy Brief for California

Attendance Works has developed a policy brief to help district decision-makers in California think about how they might collect and use chronic absence data. The brief describes how districts can use their Student Information Systems (SIS) to support this work. It lays out steps districts can take to maximize the opportunities provided by the CALPADS new attendance data collection for 2016-17 school year, and the new reporting requirements in the ESSA.

Download the full Brief: Making Data Work in California: Leveraging Your District’s Data and Student Information System (SIS) to Monitor and Address Chronic Absence

Data on missed days and information on how to help families interpret the data can be included on student report cards. Click here to find sample report cards with chronic absence data.

Click here to find In School + on Track 2016, and the reports from 2015, 2014 and 2013.

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June 29th, 2016

Data Tools to Drive Action

Too often, parents, students and sometimes teachers don’t realize how quickly absences, excused as well as unexcused, can add up to academic trouble. At the same time principals, district leaders and community members often don’t know if chronic absence is a significant problem in local schools.

Research shows that missing as little as 2-3 days every month is considered chronic absence, and can translate into third graders unable to master reading, sixth graders failing courses and ultimately, teens dropping out of high school. Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.18.04 PM

We’ve found that the best way to identify students with poor attendance is to calculate the data that schools are already collecting. Analyzing local attendance data can help determine chronic absence levels, and show patterns across students and schools. This is a good first step towards designing strategies to help students get to class every day possible.

Analyzing district-level data also can highlight schools that are making good progress. What’s happening in these schools that serve similar populations of students, but are achieving better-than-average results? By looking into what works in these schools, you can identify effective practices that others could replicate.

We’ve partnered with Applied Survey Research and developed some tools to simplify the process. Please share with your districts, schools and communities. The self-calculating spreadsheets for school districts are called the District Attendance Tracking Tools (DATTs). These free tools are especially effective for smaller districts with more limited data capacity.

The companion tools are the School Attendance Tracking Tools (SATTs), which provide school-level analysis down to the individual student level.

The release of national chronic absence data from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) shows chronic absence data for most schools in every district in the country. The heat map (also on this page) developed by ED for its web based data story provides a quick view of the issue in each district.  The DATTs and SATTs can facilitate a deeper analysis of ED’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) for your district or school.

  • Click here to find our more about OCR’s national chronic absence data, including a link to Attendance Works’ guide to help filter the CRDC data for your state.
  • We looked at how state and local innovators are already using chronic absence analyses to galvanize action in our May 17, 2016 webinar. If you missed Using Data to Drive Action: Portraits of Chronic Absence, you can find the webinar recording and presentation slides here.

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