New attendance tracking poised to boost outcomes for low-income students

Ontario SD 8C, Press Release

Posted January 2018

(Ontario, Ore.) Ontario School District 8C is implementing a new attendance improvement program in an effort to further reduce chronic absenteeism and promote student success.

Attention2Attendance (A2A) is an early warning and intervention system which tracks student attendance and sends letters home to families when their child is trending toward becoming chronically absent.

District leaders are hopeful that fostering regular communication with families will improve academic outcomes–especially for the nearly 80 percent of Ontario SD students living in poverty, for whom daily attendance can have the greatest impact.

“We’re in one of the top ten poorest counties in the United States, and that’s a huge challenge for us, because with poverty comes absenteeism for any number of reasons,” said Nicole Albisu, District Superintendent. “We need to improve though, because education is the most powerful weapon against poverty that there is, but we can’t educate kids if they aren’t here, and that’s the bottom line.”

Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year, has emerged as a major challenge for many districts statewide, and prompted Oregon lawmakers to provide additional funding and support. And just last year, voters passed Measure 98 to provide additional funding for dropout-prevention strategies–perhaps unsurprisingly, numerous studies have linked poor attendance to high dropout rates.

In Ontario SD schools, approximately 17 percent of students were chronically absent in the 2016-17 school year (the state average in Oregon is about 20 percent). In effort to focus on decreasing absences, the district has placed parent communication coordinators in each campus and at the district office to reach out to families and connect them with any local support services they may need.

With A2A, those school and district liaisons will be better equipped to target families most in need of support based on their student’s attendance patterns.

Whether students are racking up missed days quickly or missing just a handful of days for family vacations or sick days, school officials want to stress the impact those missed days have on a student, both long- and short-term.

“What we want to do is communicate with families the importance of attending school,” said Nathan Sandberg, Associate Principal at Ontario High School. “Not that any family doesn’t view school as being important, but there are many parents who believe students can miss a day here and there without consequence–but even just a couple days is really a lot of missed learning time.”