District sets goal to make major gains in attendance this year

Calexico USD, Press Release

Posted September 2017

(Calexico, Calif.) About one out of every eight students in Calexico Unified School District was chronically absent last year–but district officials have announced a new plan to improve those numbers and get students to class on time, every day.

Elisa Ramirez, CUSD Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, said that although the district has implemented different strategies in recent years to increase rates of daily attendance, the growth so far has been “very minimal.”

But that, Ramirez said, was before Attention2Attendance (A2A).

A2A is an early warning and intervention system that assists schools to track student attendance and sends letters home to families in their home language when their child is trending toward being chronically absent.

California defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent or more of the typical 180-day school year, or the equivalent of at least one month of school, due to excused and unexcused absences, as well as out-of-school suspensions.

Data from the 2016-17 school year shows 1,068 students were classified as chronically absent. Those children alone accumulated a total of 29,523 missed school days—the equivalent of 81 years. And that’s not even considering students who missed only a few days.

District officials said those numbers are unacceptable, and that all schools should reach 96 percent average daily attendance by the end of this school year.

“My goal is to decrease our chronic absences,” said Hortencia Armendariz, CUSD Family Resource Center coordinator. “I’m so excited about having A2A on board.”

A major benefit to having A2A is that, in addition to having current and accurate student data readily available for review, the automatic parent communication pieces takes the burden of crafting and mailing letters off of administrators, who are then free to work with teachers and students to get kids back on track.

“Now that A2A can assist us with all the clerical work—mailing the letters, keeping track of the letters, and monitoring student attendance—our attendance staff will have more time to have conversations with our parents to try and find out exactly what is happening, and why students aren’t going to class,” Armendariz said.

Research has long shown that students who are chronically absent are less likely to reach proficiency in reading by third grade—a common benchmark for when students stop learning to read and begin reading to learn.  As early as sixth grade, chronic absenteeism has been identified as an indicator that a student will later drop out from high school.

Even with administrators keeping an eye on students, negative attendance patterns may sometimes go unnoticed unless a child is sent to the office for a disciplinary issue. With A2A’s ability to track and flag students with reoccurring absences, Armendariz said it will be impossible now for any student to “fall through the cracks.”