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School Attendance Improvement Strategies

Selected school attendance practices identified as having a positive effect in encouraging students to regularly attend all their high school classes.

The following practices have been identified as strategies and activities having a positive effect in encouraging students to regularly attend all their high school classes.

  1. Clarify school standards related to attendance by making sure high school students understand that any unexcused absence of more than 30 minutes counts as an unexcused absence from school by state law (Education Code [EC] Section 48260). This means that "ditching" a single class for more than 30 minutes counts as an unexcused absence during that school day. Three unexcused absences of more than 30 minutes in one school year makes a student a "truant," and parents will be formally notified if their students becomes classified as "truants" (EC Section 48260.5).

  2. Publicize the consequences of becoming classified as a truant and enforce them consistently. For example, parents should be notified they have a right to meet with appropriate school personnel to discuss solutions to their students' truancy when the student first meets the definition of a truant, and students should be notified that they are subject to suspension, restriction, or delay of their driving privilege pursuant to Section 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code.

  3. Monitor student attendance and absence through a computerized attendance record-keeping system that keeps track of any unexcused absences that are more than 30 minutes.

  4. Keep accurate attendance records that show who has been reported as a truant three or more times per school year and what efforts have been made to hold a conference with the parent or guardian and with the student. After three reports are made on a student's truancy and a conscientious effort is made to have a meeting with the student and parent, make sure the parent knows that the student is now deemed a "habitual truant" (EC Section 48262). When the normal avenues of school intervention are exhausted, refer habitual truants to a school attendance review board or a district attorney or probation officer mediation program (EC sections 48263 and 48263.5).

  5. Place responsibility for verification of excessive excused absences for illness on parents and students. If the reasons for the absences are not verified by a doctor or appropriate school official, count those absences as unexcused.

  6. Telephone parents/guardians in the evening or at work to verify absences.

  7. Use bilingual aides to contact parents with limited English-speaking ability and send out school attendance notification letters in the language appropriate to the family.

  8. Make home visits concerning student absences if parents/guardians cannot be reached by telephone.

  9. Install a telephone recording unit to record absence excuses before school opens and to reduce the workload of the office staff in the morning. Advertise the service in the local newspaper or by letters to all parents. Distribute a small card, similar in size to a business card, which gives the school's answering service number and directions for reporting the reasons for absences.

  10. Set up a telephone hotline in the school district attendance office that allows community residents to anonymously report apparent truants so that school attendance complaints can be investigated pursuant to EC Section 48290; include the hotline number on phone number stickers distributed to the community with police, fire, and other emergency numbers.

  11. Refer students with frequent absences to a counselor, administrator, or school social worker to diagnose the problem and recommend solutions to alleviate the circumstances that are contributing to the truancy.

  12. Post the names of perfect attendees in a highly visible place.

  13. Hold a drawing for special prizes donated by local businesses. Use perfect attendance as the eligibility requirement for the drawing.

  14. Send commendation letters to students and parents for perfect attendance and improved attendance.

  15. Seek small or large financial incentives from the parent association to be awarded to the classroom with the best attendance record; allow teachers to spend financial rewards for any purpose selected by the class members or the teacher.

  16. Initiate make-up classes conducted on one day of a weekend when a student is deemed a truant; use a "no-frill" room on campus and establish an after-school or weekend study program for students who fail to attend.
  17. Refer students with persistent attendance problems to a Student Success Team (SST) or a School Attendance Review Team (SART), which should include teachers, administrators, counselors, and a school psychologist. Be sure that the parent/guardian and the student both attend the SST or SART meeting.

  18. Initiate a "cross-age helper" system in which older high school students with good attendance are permitted to assist younger students on a weekly basis.

  19. Personalize relationships between children and attendance office personnel; ask office aides, clerks, and secretaries to make individual contact with high-risk students on a daily basis.

  20. Develop an "Adoptee Program" in which teacher volunteers make weekly informal contacts with high-risk students.

  21. Establish homeroom periods in secondary schools, with students remaining with the same homeroom teacher all four years; make homeroom teachers responsible for monitoring their students' attendance records and discussing truancy with parents/guardians.

  22. Refer students and parents to outside agencies for counseling.

  23. Emphasize the importance of school attendance to students with long-term, non-contagious diseases that tend to keep students at home (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and sickle cell anemia); encourage and support these students at school and make sure these students are allowed to complete all assignments and tests missed during legitimate absences that can be reasonably provided pursuant to EC Section 48205 (b).

  24. Display attendance graphs in the faculty room to show attendance comparisons between current and past school years and publicize the loss of Average Daily Attendance (a.d.a.) funds due to unexcused absences.

  25. Provide schools a pro-rata share of the increased a.d.a. funds generated by their attendance improvement efforts.

  26. Set high annual goals for reducing the number of habitual truants and chronic absentees that are monitored throughout the year.

  27. Assess student attendance during the transitions from elementary school to middle school to high school.

  28. Evaluate school-level and district-level school attendance interventions for effectiveness.

  29. Focus on the specific school attendance barriers faced by foster youth, homeless youth, and youth with mental health challenges.

  30. Address the problem of chronic absences which appear excessive, even when the absences have been excused by a parent or guardian.
Questions:   Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office | CWA@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-2183
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