State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Recognizes September as Attendance Awareness Month

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in recognition of September as Attendance Awareness Month, said school districts, public agencies, community groups, students, and their families must work together to combat chronic absenteeism.

“Students aren’t learning if they are not in class. Cohesive partnerships, intervention strategies, and solid support services create attendance teams that are armed with the necessary tools to identify and help students struggling with attendance problems,” said Torlakson. “By combining resources and working together, school attendance administrators, parents, and community organizations can build systems to reduce chronic absenteeism rates that are positive and effective, not negative and punitive.”

A recent report by Attendance Works, Children Now, and the UC Davis Center for Regional Change noted that high levels of chronic absence in a school are a sign that additional support from the district, other public agencies, and nonprofits is needed.

In 2017, for the first time, the California Department of Education (CDE) began collecting chronic absenteeism rates in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). That data is now available in CDE’s DataQuest system and shows which schools and districts have had high rates of chronic absenteeism and which student groups are likely to require the most resources and interventions.

The data is also included in the California School Dashboard by student groups as one of the multiple measures of progress that parents, teachers, administrators, and community members can use to evaluate their schools and districts.

Chronic absenteeism rates are especially high for certain student groups such as American Indians, African Americans, foster youth, and students with disabilities.

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

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. For information about sample policies to address high chronic absenteeism rates and California’s school attendance review board process, visit the CDE School Attendance Review Boards web page.

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