Improved student attendance brings in the revenue for Glendale Unified Featured Photo

Improved student attendance brings in the revenue for Glendale Unified

Megan O’Neil,
Glendale News-Press

A new accountability system is helping Glendale Unified increase student attendance rates while also boosting state funding doled out based on the number of occupied classroom seats.

For the last decade, the district’s student attendance rate has hovered around 96%, said Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer.

During the 2009-10 school year, which saw the Station fire, debris flows and related evacuations, that number slipped to 95.7%. The district subsequently spent $86,900 to implement a new accountability system called Attention2Attendance.

Two years later, attendance rates have climbed to 97.4%, Lueck said.

“Our students are attending on a higher percentage and we are paid for that attendance,” Lueck said. “What that meant to us was $1.3 million over what we were projecting.”

With districts funded by the state based on average daily attendance – currently that funding stands at $5,222 for a full school year – keeping students in their seats is big business. Some districts employ entire staff teams dedicated to combating truancy issues.

The Attention2Attendance system tracks unexcused student absences and generates automated letters that are mailed home to alert parents, said Cuauhtemoc Avila, director of educational services with Glendale Unified.

“Then it notifies the schools of these reports and requires a follow up conference with some school administrator or counselor who is assigned to contact these families,” Avila said.

The system also allows school officials to identify students exhibiting a poor attendance pattern early on, he added.

“We get a lot of first time letters, and fewer second and certainly fewer third letters as parents are made aware of these unexcused absences,” Avila said.

The benefits go beyond the financials, officials said. High attendance can help narrow the achievement gap between student subgroups and while also increasing graduation rates.

“It has increase the amount of hours they are in school and it is hopefully something that will pay off outside the financial benefits to the district,” Avila said.

The $1.3 million windfall during the current school year came despite enrollment numbers that dropped 143 students as compared to 2010-11.

“I think it truly paid off,” Lueck said of the accountability system. “Plus, students seem to want to come to school.”