September 30, 2013
Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Addresses Truancy Report
LOS ANGELES—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following statement today after taking part in the release of California Attorney General Kamala Harris's report, "In School and on Track," examining the issue of truancy and absenteeism in California's elementary schools.
"Educators from individual classrooms to state government have known this basic truth for years: schools can have the very best facilities and materials in the world—but no school can reach and teach a child who simply isn't present to learn. I welcome the growing attention around chronic absence, because its implications are staggering. Our schools work every day to give students the tools they need to succeed, but it will take all of us—parents, law enforcement, health professionals, and more—working together to be sure students are there to receive them. Every missed school day is a missed opportunity."
Since taking office, Torlakson has convened two interagency forums focused on chronic absenteeism. His Department of Education (CDE) works daily with school districts on chronic absence, providing guidance and technical assistance in early intervention efforts to help students who may be at risk. CDE, along with The California Endowment, recently presented major workshops in Northern and Southern California focused on alternatives to out-of-school suspensions. Department officials are also presenting to the Administrative Office of the Courts and later to the Judicial Council of California on school attendance law and what the law enforcement community can do to help keep students in school.
Torlakson administers and coordinates the State School Attendance Review Board (SARB) with representatives of school districts, parent groups, county superintendents of schools, law enforcement agencies, the health care profession, and child welfare and attendance personnel. The State SARB has placed a major focus on monitoring chronic absentees and positive early interventions that keep students in the classroom. In 2010, Senate Bill 1357 sought to track chronic absence at the state level but included a provision that the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System—more commonly known as CALPADS—not be used to collect the data unless the federal government specifically appropriated funds for doing so.