Attendance Works News
November 7th, 2016
It’s a true story in many families: the elementary child who happily agrees to turn out the lights at 8:00 pm gets to bed at 11:00 pm or later by middle and high school. Why is that so many teenagers stay up late and have trouble getting to school on time? Start School Later, a national nonprofit, believes the key to ensuring students get enough sleep so they can attend school every day−and stay healthy and safe−is to focus on when the morning school bell rings.
Since the 1970s and 80s, middle and high schools shifted their start times to begin classes earlier than elementary schools. Today the average morning bell time for middle and high schools is 8:03 am, and many start as early as 7:00 am. This leaves many students, and especially those who have to travel an hour or more to reach campus, bleary eyed when they rise from bed at 6:30-7:00 am to get to school on time.
Beyond making it challenging to get to school every day, teens who don’t get enough sleep are set up to be at risk for a variety of health issues including obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety. And research shows that drowsy students who lack adequate sleep are more often chronically absent and tardy at school, and are in more automobile crashes.
Are teens just being willful, as some might believe? Studies also show that as children mature their sleep and wake patterns shift to later hours. With this in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2014 issued a brief urging high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the chance to get an optimal 8.5–9.5 hours of sleep a night.
As a mother of three, Terra Ziporyn Snider says she “lived and breathed this issue on both a personal and professional front for years” as she worked to change the 7:17 a.m. high school start times in her school system. The local school board was not able to make the change. She and Maribel Cabrera Ibrahim realized that a multifaceted approach was the only one that was going to work. The two women teamed up and created Start School Later.
Moving school start times affects a community’s entire day, from start times for after school activities or student jobs, to when parents get to work in the morning. The biggest hurdle in most communities is related to school bus routes. Most districts have a limited number of buses, which are shared among the entire student population.
Yet a shift in school start times has been picking up steam. Already districts in 44 states have moved to later start times for middle and high school students. The results have been swift: When schools have delayed the start of the school day, communities have seen reduced tardiness, as well as improved attendance, graduation rates and standardized test scores, studies show.
The call for a later school start time for teens is supported by a number of health organizations. In addition to AAP, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a host of other national and regional groups support later morning school start times for teens.
Find out more at the Start School Later website: http://www.startschoollater.net
October 28th, 2016
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.
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.
October 24th, 2016
High quality preschool programs prepare children to enter kindergarten with school readiness skills, and are an ideal time to instill strong attendance habits in children and families. The recently released Head Start Performance Standards include a new provision that requires Head Start programs to address chronic absence.
The new provisions will move Head Start programs beyond treating attendance simply as a matter of compliance to using data to identify when absences are undercutting a child’s opportunity to learn. The new standards introduce the term chronic absence, or missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. This information can help Head Start staff recognize and address cumulative absences spread over time that may have gone unnoticed in the past.
The requirements make it clear that agencies must begin to track children’s individual attendance, engage parents in understanding the relationship between attendance and success in school, and develop local strategies that encourage positive attendance habits from the outset of schooling. The Attendance Works’ toolkit, Early and Often: Showing Up in Preschool Matters provides a wealth of strategy suggestions, downloadable materials and research to help Head Start programs implement these concepts.
Collecting, analyzing and using data to target action is central to every successful chronic absence strategy. To expand access to such data, Attendance Works is developing an excel-based Preschool Attendance Tracking Tool (PATT) and encouraging major Head Start data providers to integrate chronic absence reports included in the PATT directly into their data systems.
COPA, a technology provider for Head Start programs, has been the fastest to respond and has already integrated chronic absence reports into its system. COPA report 241 compiles the data necessary to track chronic absence, and report 241 S provides statistical analysis that is required by Head Start and recommended in the PATT. The two reports are connected so agencies can identify how many and which children are moderately chronically absent (absent 10 to 19 percent of the time) or severely chronically (absent more than 20 percent) by classroom and site.
Child Plus, another technology provider for Head Start programs, has indicated it will create an opportunity at its annual conference October 24-27 for its users to vote, by applause, on whether Child Plus should add in new chronic absence data into its regular reports.
In January 2017, Attendance Works will release our Preschool Attendance Tracking Tool (PATT) along with a manual describing how to use it in conjunction with any data management software. If you are interested in registering for access to the tool once the PATT is available, please email email@example.com.
We applaud the new regulations and congratulate the Office of Head Start for its thoughtful attention to chronic absence. “These standards recognize that helping young children and their families develop the habit of daily attendance and overcome barriers to getting to class lays a strong foundation for student achievement. The focus of the new standards on both individual student attendance and family engagement improves the odds that children will start kindergarten with attendance habits that will serve them well throughout their education,” said Hedy Chang, Attendance Works executive director.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to register for access to the Preschool Attendance Tracking Tool (PATT) tool once it is available.