February 21st, 2014
This blog post was originally published on the website of the Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center.
West Oakland Middle School Principal Ron Smith knows when any of the students at his school are absent. And he remembers each one as well — missing students can expect him to ask them why they missed school the next time they’re back. “Kids get annoyed if I ask in the (morning) lineup where they were yesterday,” Smith said.
Smith was speaking on a panel that featured Oakland principals during the “Oakland Attendance Awards and Celebration” event on February 13 at Mills College to honor and celebrate “Bright Spot” schools and staff who are “moving the needle on chronic absence reduction.” The event was hosted by the Oakland Attendance Collaborative of the Oakland Education Cabinet. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and School Board Director Anne Campbell-Washington were among the 50 people who attended.
Awards for promoting positive attendance were presented to 13 Oakland schools: Think College Now, Garfield, Howard, Martin Luther King, Roosevelt, Glenview, PLACE at Prescott, Melrose, Greenleaf, Elmhurst, Montera, West Oakland and Madison.
Four principals appeared on a panel to discuss what was working on their campus to increase attendance: Smith, Enomwoyi Booker of PLACE at Prescott, Carolyn Howard of Howard and Clifford Hong of Roosevelt. Jamie Lopez, the East Bay Asian Youth Center Community Managing Director for Garfield, also appeared on the panel.
The educators on the panel highlighted the need for buy-in from the entire school and community to the idea that it is critical for students to attend school every day. Lopez spoke about how teachers are “central for this work” and the need to “energize faculty in a strategic way.” At Garfield, a portion of each monthly staff meeting is devoted to goal setting and reporting from the school’s attendance team.
Both Howard and Hong spoke about the important role the attendance clerk at their school plays. Hong noted that the attendance clerk at Roosevelt looks at the data every day and “takes it personal” when a student is chronically absent. Howard said the attendance clerk at her school knows when each student is coming and going, and helps set the expectation that any absence needs to be verified. Calls home are important, too. “If no one calls,” Howard said, “it’s like the kid is not missed.”
Booker said that if a student isn’t showing up for class in elementary school, it’s much more likely a family issue than a kid skipping class. This highlights the importance of building up trust with the community and families, Booker said, so school staff can diagnose what is happening with a particular family that results in the child being absent. “That goes hand in hand-in-hand with getting a child (to school),” Booker said.
Smith called middle school “its own beast” and said good attendance for those grades is “built on relationships of us knowing when (students) are not there.” He agreed that kids don’t want to come to school if they’re not being missed, and that some students at his school miss class because their families are relying on them for tasks like babysitting or watching the house. This is why getting to know students and what is happening in their lives is so important, Smith said. “We’re trying to build a culture where a kid says ‘I can go to school to be safe. I want to be there.’”
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February 7th, 2014
Not long after launching Attendance Works, we realized that schools and districts that want to calculate chronic absence need some help with the numbers crunching. So we developed free data tools: self-calculating spreadsheets that break down absenteeism rates by various factors.
We have just released upgraded versions of the tools, including a new spreadsheet to combine the Disstrict Attendance Tracking Tool (DATT) output for all grades. Read more about the DATTs on our website
and register to use it.
New features include:
- Suspension tab in K-5 (which was previously only available in MS and HS)
- New output tab for Race and Grade
- Middle and High School Tools have now been released, and are no longer in pilot testing
And introducing our latest tool:
- Tool to Combine K-12 Chronic Absence Reports
As the name suggests, the purpose of this tool is to take the output data that is already in the K-5, MS, and HS DATTs and aggregate it all into a K-12 summary. In this way, you will be able view chronic absence data for all schools and across all grade levels in the district.
This is especially important for California school districts, which now must incorporate plans to address chronic absence into their Local Control Accountability Plan as part of the new Local Control Funding Formula
. But we hope schools and districts across the country will use these tools to start reducing chronic absence.
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January 31st, 2014
We know that chronic absence at any age is one of the best early warning indicators that a student is at risk academically. In California, the Local Control Funding Formula will for the first time require every district to establish annual goals and specific actions to reduce chronic absence as part of the development of local plans. This process offers lessons that can apply to any school or district in the nation seeking to use improved attendance as a lever to achieve more equitable outcomes.
On Thursday, February 6, we’re co-sponsoring a webinar with he Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd: Leveraging Attendance for Equitable Outcomes: Tools for the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) in California. The webinar is from 10-11:15 Pacific time, or 1-2:15 Eastern.
This webinar will help you: 1) determine whether chronic absence is a hidden problem in your school or district, 2) identify which schools and sub-groups of students require interventions to improve attendance, 3) provide guidance on what you can do to improve attendance, and 4) help you develop goals and activities to meet the requirements of the LCAP.
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