Education

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Recognizes September as Attendance Awareness Month

A student is considered chronically absent when he or she misses 10 percent or more of the days he or she is enrolled. – Courtesy photo

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in recognition of September as Attendance Awareness Month, is encouraging school districts and staff to remind families about the importance of daily attendance and help them overcome challenges that can lead to chronic absenteeism.

“Interventions to reduce chronic absenteeism should be supportive and not punitive,” said Torlakson.

“There are many students who miss school days due to issues beyond their control at the start of the school year like an illness or transportation problems. It is important to identify and link students and families to appropriate school and community resources when students miss the first days of school.”

As part of California’s efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism, recently enacted legislation expanded the role of attendance supervisors to include tracking student attendance, promoting a culture of attendance, and developing interventions to reduce chronic absenteeism.

For the first time, the California Department of Education (CDE) is collecting chronic absenteeism rates in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This data is critical in helping school administrators and attendance supervisors identify where chronic absenteeism is concentrated in each school district.

“Chronic absenteeism has been linked to high dropout rates, poor literacy skills, and behavior issues that could lead students down a path away from school and towards the criminal justice system,” said Torlakson.

“This new statewide data will tell us where we need to focus our attendance improvement efforts as a state and as a diverse set of educational communities.”

The data will allow schools to review their chronic absentee rates and compare them to other schools in California. A student is considered chronically absent when he or she misses 10 percent or more of the days he or she is enrolled. This data will also be included in the California School Dashboard as one of the multiple measures of progress that parents, teachers, administrators, and community members can use to evaluate their schools and districts.

To provide additional support to combat chronic absenteeism, the CDE administers California Learning Communities for School Success grants. The program, established in 2016, awards funds to eligible districts and county offices of education to help with excessive truancy, reduce chronic absenteeism rates, and keep children in school. The grants are awarded annually for three years. More information is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/schoolsuccess.asp.

For information about sample policies to address high chronic absenteeism rates and California’s school attendance review board process for improving school attendance, visit our CDE Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ai/sb/

September 6, 2017

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