Lemoore Union will address rise in excused absences in 2017-18 school year

Lemoore Union Elementary SD, Press Release

Posted August 2017

(Lemoore, Calif.) Officials at Lemoore Union Elementary School District are ramping up efforts to target truancy and chronic absenteeism rates by boosting communication between schools and families that stresses the importance of getting kids to class every day.

“We know that learning is important, and the only way you can learn is if you’re present,” said Ed Ochoa, assistant superintendent at Lemoore. “We have supports that we’re trying to put in place for students–interventions both for in class and outside of class–but none of that can work without our students being here consistently.”

Research has long shown that students who regularly miss school are far less likely to achieve academically. Children 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. And as early as sixth grade, chronic absence has also been identified as an indicator that a student will later drop out from high school.

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

Currently, 7 percent of children attending Lemoore schools are considered chronically absent, Ochoa said. A significant number of those students received that designation due to excused absences, where parents take their kids out of school early or keep them home for any reason.

“We want to bring that awareness that every day, and every minute matters, so tardiness or early outs where kids are pulled out of class, all of that affects a student’s education because they have pockets of learning that’s missing,” Ochoa explained. “And as we know, learning builds on what we learned the day before, so building a strong foundation is important. Those gaps are going to catch up either now or in the future.”

To help address the problem, the district is implementing Attention2Attendance, an early warning and intervention system that tracks student attendance and sends letters home to families when their child appears to be on the pathway of reaching that chronic absenteeism threshold.

Communications go out in each family’s home language, and take 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.

“This initiative will help strengthen the school and parent partnership, and will increase learning for students, which I think will make a dramatic difference with our students who are struggling,” Ochoa said. “And if attendance is the underlying reason why, we can address that easily, but we need to have that regular communication.”