Combating chronic absence among students will become a priority this school year, according to Solano County Superintendent of Schools Jay Speck.
He has joined a nationwide Call to Action in which he is "agreeing to raise public awareness, dig deeper into attendance data, and work with community partners to improve school attendance starting as soon as children enter school," according to a release from the Solano County Office of Education this week.
The effort will apply to all schools in Solano County, including Dixon, Benicia and Suisun City. Here are the details:
“In signing this pledge, the Solano County Office of Education (SCOE) recognizes that chronic absence is a surprisingly prevalent but often overlooked factor in why students are struggling academically,” said Speck. “Although chronic absenteeism is often considered a high school problem, national research shows that one in ten kindergarten and first-grade students misses nearly a month of school every year.”
Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days—for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows that this is the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance. Research also shows that children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to master reading by the end of third grade, a critical milestone for later success. This is particularly true for low-income children who need school the most but often attend the least.
Solano schools are being encouraged to track chronic absence, an important attendance data point, in order to make informed efforts to improve student attendance.
“We know that we will never narrow the achievement gap or reduce our dropout rate until we bring this problem under control, and that means starting early,” said Speck. “All our efforts to improve curriculum and instruction won’t matter much if kids aren’t in school.”
The Call to Action for Superintendents is supported by two national organizations: The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an organization working to increase the number of low-income students reading at grade level by the end of third grade; and Attendance Works, an organization which aims to improve the practice, policy, and research on school attendance. The Superintendent’s pledge complements a similar resolution adopted unanimously by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June urging mayors to support the creation of attendance initiatives.
Speck’s plans include sending a toolkit of resources to each school in Solano County as part of SCOE’s awareness campaign entitled School Attendance – Every Minute Matters: From Awareness to Action. The toolkit has been developed in partnership with Sutter Health and is posted online at www.solanocoe.net.
The Every Minute Matters Toolkit includes:
- Parent flyers in English and Spanish
- Talking points for multiple audiences about attendance and chronic absence
- School self-assessments for chronic absence
- Guidelines for establishing school-wide attendance incentives
- Tips for getting in touch with hard to reach parents
“We know that chronic absence is a problem we can solve when schools, families, and community partners work together to create a culture of attendance, use data to identify problems as early as possible, and help families overcome hurdles to getting to school,” said Hedy Chang, Director of Attendance Works. “We’ve seen local efforts achieve measurable differences in chronic absence within a single academic year.”