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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
September 3, 2019

Dear County and District Superintendents:

Attendance Awareness and Model Attendance Programs

I am writing today to urge you to join me in the annual Attendance Awareness Campaign and to consider developing a model school attendance program this year to ensure more of California’s school children have an opportunity to succeed.

One of my highest priorities as State Superintendent of Public Instruction is to lead the effort to reduce California’s unacceptably high chronic absenteeism rates starting with early learning and care programs and upward into K-12. Chronic absenteeism is a crisis in California’s early learning and public education system, dropping the achievement rates of one out of four students in some student groups. Even with the best teachers, best curriculum, and best facilities, children and students will not learn if they are missing too much school. A significant number of chronic absentee children and students are from racial ethnic subgroups: African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Pacific Islander. Other chronic absentees are foster youth, homeless youth, students with disabilities, and our youngest learners.

Now is the right time to plan a messaging campaign to parents, guardians, and caregivers to let them know how critical good attendance is to the success of their children, especially in the early years when children are building a foundation for learning to read proficiently.

As we begin the new school year, we should raise the awareness of parents, guardians, and caregivers of the effects of chronic absenteeism and truancy. An excellent toolkit for an effective messaging campaign with sample back to school letters and other resources is available on the Attendance Works Strategy 2: Use Effective Messaging web page at

Reducing chronic absenteeism rates also requires a multi-tiered approach supported by your supervisor of attendance, and a collaborative school attendance review board (SARB) process. If you already have low chronic absenteeism rates and a strong multi-tiered system of attendance support that promotes good attendance and early and intensive interventions, I urge you to consider mentoring other districts through the Model SARB Recognition Program.

The 2019–20 Model SARB Recognition Program, which is sponsored by the California Department of Education (CDE) in cooperation with the California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance, has an Intent to Apply with a deadline of October 4, 2019. The Intent to Apply, Instructions, Application, and Application Certification Form are available on the CDE Model SARB Recognition Program web page at Applications will be due to the CDE on February 7, 2020, by close of business at 5:00 p.m. (PDT).

Outstanding and innovative programs chosen for the award will serve as models for other local or county SARBs in the state that are using a multi-tiered system of support to reduce chronic absenteeism rates and increase graduation rates. Again, I encourage those that have already developed model programs to serve as mentors to others.

If you have any questions regarding the Attendance Awareness Campaign or the Model SARB Recognition Program, please contact David Kopperud, Education Programs Consultant, Educational Options Office, by phone at 916-323-1028 or by email at


Tony Thurmond


Last Reviewed: Tuesday, September 3, 2019

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