As we start another exciting school year, we want to address what has become an area of focus and concern throughout the entire district: absenteeism.
Last year our chronic absentee rate hovered just below 14%. Chronic absenteeism is defined as, “a pupil who is absent on 10 percent or more of the school days in the school year when the total number of days a pupil is absent is divided by the total number of days the pupil is enrolled.” This definition includes both excused and unexcused absences, and is now a rate that is published in the Local Control Accountability Plan for all California public schools.
In 2015-16, 416 of our students were absent 10% or more of the school days. Those are approximately 108 essential hours per student, totaling 44,928 combined hours of instruction that can never be replaced.
District-wide, this is a very serious issue.
We know that our entire community prides itself on the caliber of our schools’ instruction. The lessons and activities that students miss when they are absent put them at a disadvantage.
What is Truancy?
School attendance in California for grades K-12 is compulsory. The state has very specific guidelines for the allowed reasons for missing school.
Excused absences are limited to “personal illness; health department quarantine; medical, dental, optometric or chiropractic appointments; attendance at funeral services for an immediate family member; jury duty or any other court order requiring a personal appearance such as a subpoena; exclusion for failure to present evidence of immunization; observance of a religious holiday; attendance at a SART or SARB (Attendance Review) hearing.”
The state of California highly emphasizes the need for students to be in the classroom learning each day. It’s important to note that the state doesn’t outline family vacations or other personal reasons as a basis for an excusable absence.
Education Code Section 48260 states, “Any pupil subject to full-time education who is absent from school without a valid excuse three (3) days or tardy or absent from school without a valid excuse in excess of 30 minutes on each of more than three (3) days in any one school year is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor or the superintendent of the district.”
To recap, missing school for more than 30 minutes during a school day, or for the full day, without a “valid excuse” is defined as a truancy event. Once a student reaches three truancy events, the situation escalates to involve school administrators.
Revising Attendance Reporting and Recording
The State of California (CA) requires rigorous reporting and recording of student attendance. We frequently review our procedures to make sure we are in compliance with state law.
Over the summer we went through and refined each school site’s procedure. Our focus was to find ways to help prevent chronic absenteeism, as well as making the process clearer and easier to understand for parents.
Parents will always be notified of any daily absence by phone. That will stay the same.
We revised the method in which parents are notified about accumulating unexcused absences. Once a student acquires more than three unexcused absences, parents will by contacted by a school administrator with the intent to work collaboratively on solutions to ensure the student’s attendance improves. After six unexcused absences, students and parents will be brought in for a meeting with the Student Attendance Review Team (SART). After nine unexcused absences, the case will go to the Student Review Board (SARB). If necessary, the local police department and/or the District Attorney can be brought in to review the situation.
Read Superintendent Karl Mueller’s letter outlining these changes.
Missing Class Impacts Learning
We pride ourselves on providing a top tier education throughout the entire district. Through implementing rigorous academic curriculum to hiring high-quality instructors to developing personalized learning plans, we do everything we can to give students the best opportunities possible.
Students need to be in school to benefit from that education environment.
Missed class time is irreplaceable. Regardless of if students make up the work, no amount of catch up will ever measure up to time in the classroom learning. Additionally, as students move into the more demanding coursework in high school, the ability to fully catch up on assignments becomes more and more challenging.
Attendance Influences Funding
It’s no secret that the school’s budget crisis continues to escalate. CUSD schools are funded by Average Daily Attendance (ADA). Schools receive money for each day a student attends school. If students miss school, the district receives less state funding.
Given our current financial crisis, this decreased funding further impedes our ability to recover from previous budget cuts. We are currently looking at several options to navigate this crisis. One is to emphasize the importance of attendance, hopefully increasing attendance to recoup those funds next year.
Throughout the year it is likely that you will hear more about attendance. We are diligently working to help educate the community and raise awareness about the issues surrounding school attendance.
We believe that there is no substitute for student learning in the school environment. By engaging parents, students and school personnel in this process, we believe that we can help curb our chronic absentee and truancy rates. As students increase the time they spend in school, we can continue to provide the highest caliber education possible.
Inquiries should be directed to the principal, assistant principal, and/or site attendance clerk.