California Educator

August 2015

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R E S E A R C H S H O W S T H A T missing only two or more days of school in September is a warning sign that a student is likely to have seri- ous attendance problems. More than 90 percent of students who typically miss four or more days in September ultimately miss a month or more of the entire school year. Whether absences are excused or not, missing a month of school can result in students failing classes and dropping out. Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide initiative, directly addresses this problem. The California Department of Education (CDE) is urging teachers to prepare for the September Attendance Awareness Month Campaign by working with families and community partners to pay close attention to school attendance, and provide absentee students with extra interventions and support. "Children will learn and succeed in the classroom when we remove barri- ers to attendance, establish good attendance patterns, and celebrate success in punctual and improved attendance," says David Kopperud, education programs consultant, Coordinated Student Support Division, at CDE. "Teachers play a crucial role in promoting regular attendance and working with students, families, and community to intervene when students start missing school." State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is sending a letter to educators and families to promote the campaign, which offers strategies teachers can use to work with students and families: • Build relationships to encourage good attendance. Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they show up. Trusting relationships are also critical in encouraging stu- dents and families to seek help in overcoming barriers to attendance. • Learn about your school community. Find out about the strengths of your school community and challenges facing families that might impact attendance. • Communicate the importance of attendance. Talk with students and families about the importance of attendance and how they can get help when they need it. • Collaborate with colleagues to intervene when needed. Alert school staff when a student misses school for more than one or two days, and learn about resources in the community to support families. Many educators know these strategies and use them. But with a fresh school year under way, September is a particularly critical month to focus on attendance. For tips on interacting with families and more information, see Track the Right Data Schools too often overlook chronic absence because they track average attendance or unexcused absences, not how many kids miss too many days for any reason. Attendance Works has free data-tracking tools. Engage Families Many parents and students don't realize how quickly early absences can add up to academic trouble. Community members and teachers can educate families and build a culture of attendance through early outreach, incentives and attention to data. Fix Transportation The lack of a reliable car, or simply missing the school bus, can mean some students don't make it to class. Schools, transit agencies and community partners can organize car pools, supply bus passes or find other ways to get kids to school. Address Health Needs Health concerns, particularly asthma and dental problems, are among the leading reasons students miss school in the early grades. Schools and medical professionals can work together to give children and families health care and advice. WHAT WE CAN DO National Attendance Awareness Month September is Source: Attendance Works 18 Know & Tell

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