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School Attendance Improvement Strategies

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

The following practices have been identified as strategies and activities that have a positive effect in encouraging students to regularly attend school.

  1. Raise awareness of school personnel, parents, guardians, caregivers, community partners, and local businesses of the effects of chronic absence and truancy. This is especially important during Attendance Awareness Month each September.

  2. Identify and respond to grade level and pupil subgroup patterns of chronic absence and truancy.

  3. Identify and address factors contributing to chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy, including suspension and expulsion.

  4. Ensure that pupils with attendance problems are identified as early as possible to provide appropriate support services and interventions.

  5. Evaluate the effectiveness of strategies implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism rates in the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan.

  6. Monitor unexcused absences of more than 30 minutes in middle schools and high schools, and ensure parents, guardians, or caregivers are notified when their children become classified as “truants” (California Education Code [EC] Section 48260.5).

  7. After parents or guardians have been notified that their children are classified as truants and after a conscientious effort has been made to hold a conference with the parents and pupils, make sure the parents, guardians, or caregivers are notified that their children are now deemed habitual truants (EC Section 48262).

  8. When the normal avenues of intervention for habitual truants, chronic absentees, or habitually disruptive pupils are exhausted at the school site, refer the case to a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) or a district attorney or probation officer mediation program (EC sections 48263 and 48263.5).

  9. Inform parents, guardians, and caregivers of the school district’s method of verification of absences due to illness.

  10. Telephone or e-mail parents, guardians, and caregivers in the evening to verify absences.

  11. Use bilingual aides to contact parents, guardians, or caregivers with limited English-speaking ability and send out school attendance notification e-mails or letters in the language appropriate to the family.

  12. Make home visits concerning student absences if parents, guardians, and caregivers cannot be reached by e-mail, text, or telephone.

  13. Refer to students with frequent absences to a school nurse, school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, or other pupil support personnel for case management and counseling.

  14. Hold a drawing for special prizes for individual students or classes that show improved attendance.

  15. Send commendation letters to students and parents, guardians, or caregivers for improved school attendance and perfect attendance.

  16. 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 of the teacher.

  17. Refer pupils with persistent tardiness or attendance problems to a conference with school personnel and the pupil’s parents, guardians, or caregivers.

  18. Initiate make-up classes on one day of a weekend for pupils who miss classes during the regular school year.

  19. Initiate a “cross-age helper” or “buddy” system in which older students with good attendance are permitted to assist younger students on a weekly basis.

  20. Personalize relationships between children and attendance office personnel; ask office aides, clerks, or secretaries to make individual contact with chronic absentees on a daily basis.

  21. Establish homeroom periods in secondary schools, with students remaining with the same teacher all four years of high school; request that homeroom teachers monitor their students’ attendance and discuss truancy or chronic absenteeism with parents, guardians, or caregivers.

  22. Emphasize the importance of regular 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. Ensure that these students are allowed to complete all assignments and tests missed during excused absences pursuant to EC Section 48205.

  23. If a student has a temporary disability which makes attendance impossible or inadvisable, inform parents, guardians, or caregivers about the option of individual instruction provided by the school district pursuant to EC Section 48206.3.

  24. Display attendance graphs in prominent locations to show current attendance goals and comparisons between past and present school year attendance.

  25. Provide schools with a pro-rata share of the increased Average Daily Attendance funds generated by their attendance improvement efforts.

  26. Set high goals in the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan for reducing the chronic absenteeism rates of student populations or grade levels with a history of high chronic absenteeism.

  27. Assess chronic absenteeism rates during the transitions from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school.

  28. Request that the local SARB evaluate school-level and district-level attendance interventions for effectiveness.

  29. Identify the specific school attendance barriers faced by children in poverty, foster youth, homeless youth, and any other significant student population with high chronic absenteeism rates.

  30. Address the problem of chronic absenteeism, even when the absences have been excused.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are all districts and county offices of education required to have someone designated as the supervisor of attendance to improve their attendance?

Yes, EC Section 48240(a) states that the governing board of each school district and each county superintendent of schools shall appoint a supervisor of attendance, and any assistant supervisors of attendance as may be necessary, to supervise the attendance of pupils in the school district or county. The governing board of the district or the county superintendent of schools shall prescribe the duties of the supervisor of attendance and assistant supervisors of attendance to include, among other duties, those specific duties related to compulsory full-time education, truancy, work permits, compulsory continuation education, and opportunity schools, classes, and programs. EC Section 48240(b) states that it is the intent of the Legislature that in performing his or her duties, the supervisor of attendance promote a culture of attendance and establish a system to accurately track pupil attendance. The supervisor of attendance and assistant supervisors of attendance may be identified in the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan.

  1. What specific duties are required in improving attendance under Assembly Bill (AB) 2815 that apply during distance learning?

The expanded duties of supervisors of attendance under AB 2815 include effective practices to reduce chronic absenteeism that are critical to assist students during this challenging time, and none of the duties were amended. Identified duties for supervisors of attendance in EC Section 48240 include the following: Raise the awareness of school personnel, parents, guardians, caregivers, community partners, and local businesses of the effects of chronic absenteeism, truancy, and other challenges associated with poor attendance.

  • Identify and respond to grade level or pupil subgroup patterns of chronic absenteeism or truancy.
  • Identify and address factors contributing to chronic absenteeism or truancy.
  • Ensure that pupils with attendance problems are identified as early as possible to provide applicable support services and interventions.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of strategies implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism rates and truancy rates.
  • Effective January 1, 2019, supervisors of attendance have a duty to ensure that students receiving individual instruction in home and hospital programs are excused from regular school program until they return to the regular school program.

For more information about the duties of supervisors of attendance and assistant supervisors of attendance and the services benefiting high-risk youth, please visit the Child Welfare & Attendance web page.

  1. Are there any models of SARB collaboration in the state which can be used by districts developing their tiered engagement strategies?

Yes, every year the State Superintendent of Public Instruction identifies SARBs which have developed a collaborative multi-tiered system of support for attendance. The chairpersons of these Model SARBs have agreed to work with other SARBs developing a multi-tiered system of support that includes prevention, early intervention, and intensive intervention. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced the 2020 Model SARB winners in the June 24, 2020, California Department of Education news release.

  1. Who has responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the strategies implemented in the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan to improve attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism rates?

EC Section 48240 states that the supervisor of attendance evaluates the effectiveness of strategies implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism rates. In addition, all stakeholders in the educational community may continue to provide input on the effectiveness of the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan in reducing chronic absenteeism rates. The governing board of the district may modify the tiered reengagement strategies in the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan based on input from stakeholders or the county office of education.

Publication

Attendance Playbook: Smart Solutions for Reducing Chronic Absenteeism External link opens in new window or tab.
Offers intervention descriptions, research ratings as measured against the four levels of research evidence described in the Every Student Succeeds Act, links to each study, and examples of schools and districts using successful strategies.

Guiding School’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Decisions Using Data and Evidence External link opens in new window or tab.
Offers answers from researchers across the country on questions about using attendance and other data for evidence-based strategies to recover from COVID-19

Promising Practices Brief: Improving Student Engagement and Attendance During COVID-19 School Closures External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 3MB)
Offers a review of research as well as conversations with four school districts serving different geographic regions and student populations.

Using Behavioral Insights to Improve Truancy Notifications: Faculty Research Working Series External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
Offers a modified truancy notification that uses simplified language and highlights parental influence and the negative incremental effects of missing school to improve the impact of parental communication or school attendance.

Questions:   David Kopperud | dkopperud@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-1028
Last Reviewed: Thursday, August 20, 2020
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