Initiative to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

Initiative to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

Andrea M. Baldrias

The State Board of Education will adopt a performance matrix that addresses the chronic absenteeism rate in schools and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs).  Potentially half of California’s (LEAs) will be identified as failing to meet chronic absenteeism standards. 

State law defines chronic absenteeism as any student who is absent 10 percent or more from school, regardless of the reason. The California State Board has recommended a five-level indicator to improve attendance performance. 

To evade the failing category, schools and LEAs are required to have a chronic absenteeism rate of five percent or less. The medium-level status requires a five to 10 percent rate. The high level is from 10 to 20 percent chronic absenteeism. California School Districts currently hold a chronic absenteeism rate just above 10 percent.  

Within the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula, Governor Jerry Brown and California legislators stressed attendance as a key factor to successfully restructuring public schools. 

Presently, LEAs collect and report their absentee rates as part of their Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). If the board follows through with staff recommendations, LEAs will receive a color score corresponding to their absenteeism rate. The color grade will be included in the 2018 California Dashboard—the state’s web-based system that allows parents and the public to view school performance rates.

The consequences for schools who are given a red or orange indicator are unclear. The board is giving some schools an adjustment period to adapt to the new systems before state sanctions or interventions are considered. 

The current state board’s membership will shift in January 2019 when the newly elected governor, Gavin Newson, takes office. Following the retirement of Mike Kirst, the board leader under Governor Brown, Newson plans to appoint a new board president. Additional input is also expected from a new state superintendent of public instruction. On Saturday, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond was declared the  state’s newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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