- Executive Summary
- Chapter 1: Update on the Attendance Crisis
- Chapter 2: Fulfilling the Promise of LCFF for California’s At-Risk Student Populations
- Chapter 3: Suspensions Exacerbate the Attendance Crisis
- Chapter 4: Prevention & Intervention Efforts
- Chapter 5: Signs of Progress & Return on Investments in Improving Attendance
- Return to Attorney General's Site
Executive Summary: Every Kid Counts
California’s elementary school truancy crisis is a persistent problem that limits the potential of California’s children and costs school districts and the state billions of dollars each year. High rates of absenteeism interfere with students’ right to an education under the California Constitution. They drive crime and incarceration, and hurt our economy. And most importantly—they put California’s most vulnerable students at a lifelong learning disadvantage.
If every kid in California counts, then we must count every kid. While we can—and should—invest in programs to improve our schools, these benefits will never reach students who do not even make it to class. California must make it a priority to improve elementary school attendance in order to fulfill the promise of the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), to improve educational outcomes for all students, and to help our children compete in California’s global economy.
In School + On Track 2013
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’s first statewide report on elementary school truancy and chronic absence, In School + On Track 2013, revealed that elementary school students who miss school are more likely to struggle academically1 and eventually to drop out of school altogether.2 Dropouts cost the state more than $46 billion dollars each year,3 including more than $1 billion in juvenile crime costs alone.4 Above all, districts and counties may not realize the true scope of their attendance problems because chronic absence is masked by an insufficient statewide infrastructure for tracking attendance in California.5
In School + On Track 2014
In School + On Track 2013 highlighted the unacceptable rates of elementary school truancy using attendance records from the 2011-2012 school year. This year’s report indicates that those rates were not isolated or unique—truancy rates are persistent in California. In the 2012-2013 school year, the school year immediately preceding last year’s report, 1 in 5 elementary school students were truant, or 744,085 students. This marks an increase of 1.2% from 2011-2012.6 Because California takes an entire year to release its official truancy figures, official truancy rates are only available for years that predate the 2013 report.
This year, due to a partnership with Aeries Student Information System, we have access to new estimated rates of absenteeism for disadvantaged student populations from the 2013-2014 school year.7 The findings from this research are alarming.
According to estimates based on a sample of California school districts, over 250,000 elementary school students were chronically absent in 2013-2014—defined as missing 10% or more of the school year, adding up to roughly 18 or more school days.8 Even more troubling, over 50,000 elementary students were chronically truant, and over 40,000 missed at least 36 days of school in one year.9 Absences are also highest in the earliest years of school most critical for developing foundational skills like reading. As was true in In School + On Track 2013, we can only estimate these more severe indicators of attendance problems because California does not collect information on students’ total absences, chronic absenteeism, or chronic truancy.
Income & Racial Disparities
Almost 90% of the elementary students with the most severe attendance problems—those who miss 36 days or more of school per year—are estimated to be low-income. And 1 in 10 low-income students missed 10% or more of the 2013-2014 school year. These students have rightfully been targeted for increased resources under LCFF, and improving their attendance is an important step to advancing their educational opportunity.
Racial disparities in attendance are particularly troubling. Thirty-seven percent of African American elementary students sampled were truant, the highest of any subgroup (including homeless students) and 15 percentage points higher than the rate for all students. Taken statewide, almost 73,000 African American elementary students are estimated to have been truant in the 2013-2014 school year. Nearly 1 in every 5 African American elementary school students—over 33,000 in total—missed 10% or more of the school year, a rate over two and a half times that of white students in 2013-2014. Most troublingly, African American elementary school students are chronically truant at nearly four times the rate of all students, and are more than three times as likely to miss 36 days of school or more per year. Moreover, absences are highest during the most important years when children learn to read, an important benchmark for long-term academic success and predictor of dropout rates.
Because the state is not collecting this critical information, the attendance crisis among African American children has largely remained hidden. Therefore, we cannot conclusively explain the stark contrast between African American elementary students’ rates of absence and that of nearly every other subgroup. We do know, however, that African American children experience many of the most common barriers to attendance—including health issues, poverty, transportation problems, homelessness, and trauma—in greater concentration than most other populations. We discuss these barriers in more detail in Chapter II.
This attendance disparity must be a wake-up call for local and state policymakers. We need not, and should not, accept these figures as inevitable. This is a solvable problem. If local agencies have the information necessary to illuminate these patterns, they can direct resources to the students and families that need them the most. In Chapter II, we highlight innovative models for engaging and empowering communities of color and other disadvantaged populations to resolve barriers to attendance.
3+ unexcused absences/tardies
Chronic Absence Rate
18+ missed days for any reason
Chronic Truancy Rate
18+ unexcused absences
Severe Chronic Absence Rate
36+ missed days for any reason
Other at-risk students also display troubling patterns of absenteeism. In grades K-6, 30% of homeless students in the sample were truant in 2013-2014, and approximately 15% missed 18 or more days of school. Finally, truancy and chronic absence rates for American Indian and Alaska Native students are similar to those for African American students, but the smaller sample size for this population has led to less consistency in the rates observed. Latinos are also more likely to be chronically absent than White students, though they suffer from less of a disparity than that observed for African Americans.
Suspensions Start Early
New research this year demonstrates the way in which elementary school suspensions exacerbate the attendance crisis, particularly for disadvantaged students. As with chronic absence and other attendance indicators, California’s outdated infrastructure for attendance does not collect information on lost learning time due to suspensions. Therefore, we can only estimate these absences based on our study with Aeries. In our sample of approximately 147,000 elementary school students, 5,000 days of school were missed solely due to suspensions. Statewide, that means California’s elementary school children missed an estimated 113,000 days of school last year due to suspensions alone.
Racial Disparities in School Discipline
African American children represent only 18% of preschool enrollment, yet they account for over 40% of all preschool students suspended at least once.
From 1st through 5th grade, African American students are suspended more than twice as much as White students. In 1st and 2nd grade, they are suspended up to 3x more than White students.
Suspensions in elementary school are an important indicator of whether or not the same students will be suspended in high school.
Moreover, disparities in discipline and school treatment begin from the first day of class, even in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten settings. African American students (representing only 8% of the sample) accounted for 20% of K-6 days missed due to suspension, while Latino students (representing 44% of students in the sample) accounted for roughly 40% of the suspension days. African American students missed more than twice as many days of school per student due to suspensions than White students. American Indian or Alaska Native students also missed more than two times as many days of school per student due to suspensions than White students. In addition, the number of school days missed per student due to suspensions was three times as high for special education students and five times as high for foster students when compared to all students. These numbers are a stark reminder of the need to reevaluate discipline policies that remove elementary school students from the classroom.
Too Many Absences at Too High a Cost
New research from the past year confirms that truancy and absenteeism in elementary school have far-ranging implications for academic achievement and student engagement in school.10 The association between poor attendance and academic achievement among elementary students is robust—affecting all Californians, especially low-income students and students of color—and creating real perils for the academic futures of these young students, and the economic future of all Californians.
The impact of a child’s attendance on his or her academic success starts in kindergarten.11 Chronically absent kindergartners performed below their better-attending peers on math and reading skills assessments—effects that are particularly pronounced as absences increase.12 In California, fourth graders who missed more than three days of class in the month prior to taking national assessments scored more than a full grade level below their peers with no absences during that period.13
Low-income students and students of color were more likely to miss school and to suffer academically from these absences. Low-income fourth graders were 30% more likely to miss three days or more in the prior month and scored lower on assessments than their more affluent peers.14 The same correlation between high absenteeism and lower scores held true for African American, Native American, and Latino fourth-graders.15
Financial losses to California school districts resulting directly from student absences also continue to add up. In School + On Track 2013 revealed estimates indicating that school districts lose over $1 billion per year in school funding due to absences. These estimated losses remain consistent over an updated three-year study of the 2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. In fact, school districts have lost over $3.5 billion over three years.16
Put simply, California cannot afford this level of absenteeism in our state. School districts need better tools to monitor and respond to elementary school truancy so that they can make informed, effective decisions at the local level.
Elementary School Truancy Rates & Loss of Funding by County (2012 - 2013)
|County||2011-2012 Elementary School Truancy Rate||2012-2013 Elementary School Truancy Rate||Change from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013||2011-2012 Loss of Funding||2011-2012 Per pupil Losses||2012-2013 Loss of Funding||2012-2013 Per pupil Losses|
|San Luis Obispo||30.20%||27.45%||-2.75%||$6,712,957.00||$199.00||$4,902,641.60||$145.44|
Local Control Funding Formula
LCFF and Attendance –
Know the Facts
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is the new formula for funding California schools adopted by the Governor and Legislature in 2013. LCFF gives every school district a base funding grant that is calculated according to ADA. Additional funds are allocated to districts based on the number of English learners, low-income, and foster youth they enroll. Schools where more than 55 percent of the students are English learners, low-income, and/or foster youth qualify for additional “concentration” funds. The new funding formula gives school district more control over how the funds are spent.
Every school district and county office of education must adopt a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which must specify annual goals and action plans that address all eight state priorities.
- One of the state’s 8 priorities is “pupil engagement,” which is to be measured by school attendance rates, chronic absenteeism rates, middle school and high school dropout rates, and high school graduation rates.
- LCAPs must address all 8 state priorities for the entire student body, as well as for certain pupil subgroups, which include racial/ethnic subgroups, low-income pupils, English Learners, pupils with disabilities, and foster youth.
California’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)—championed by Governor Jerry Brown and supported by a broad coalition of educators and policymakers—presents school districts and counties with the opportunity to reduce the barriers that prevent California’s children from obtaining the full benefits of a public education. Enacted in 2013 and implemented in 2014, LCFF directs resources where the need and challenge are greatest, including to serve disadvantaged student populations such as foster youth, low-income students, and English learners. Among many groundbreaking reforms, LCFF requires school districts to address attendance and chronic absence as part of the state priorities they must include in their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs). As In School + On Track 2013 lauded, LCFF provides an important tool for California to reduce elementary school truancy and chronic absence, particularly among targeted at-risk student populations.
Full implementation of LCFF requires structural improvements at the state level to help districts remove barriers to an equal education. The 2014 report identifies those opportunities for improvement and the necessary state support that can empower districts to fulfill their legal obligations and articulated goals under LCFF. For example, in the absence of statewide student attendance records in California, many school districts do not have access to the detailed attendance and absence information necessary to set specific improvement goals for their students and for disadvantaged student populations targeted by LCFF.
California is 1 of only 4 states in the U.S. that does not track student attendance in its statewide records system.
One in 10 districts reported that they do not know their chronic absence rate for the 2013-14 school year. As a result, the majority of district LCAPs contain little to no information on attendance rates or goals related to attendance and chronic absence for these student subgroups. Our review of 140 randomly selected LCAPs revealed that only 15.7% of school districts identified baseline chronic absence rates. A separate review of 80 district LCAPs by the nonprofit organizations Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Children Now, and Attendance Works found that less than 1 out of 3 districts described any specific annual goals for reducing chronic absence for the general student population, and only 5% of districts "set forth chronic absence goals disaggregated by subgroup."17
Need for State Infrastructure
California is one of only four states in the nation that does not track attendance statewide. This failure is inhibiting solutions to the attendance crisis. The Attorney General is joined by a wide-range of national and state leaders in her efforts to combat truancy and chronic absence. President Obama’s My Brother's Keeper initiative acknowledged that “[f]ailure to attend school regularly, especially in the early grades, can severely impair a child’s ability to participate in a rigorous curriculum.”18 Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has also launched a Too Small to Fail initiative focused on children ages zero to five, recognizing that early learning is critical to long term success for children and our economy.19 In California, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the State Board of Education have all made improving attendance a state priority.
But there is more work to be done. Legislation pending in California would close some of these gaps and help districts implement LCFF’s attendance requirements.
School districts and counties need additional support and tools from the state. While schools and districts are responsible for monitoring student attendance at the local level, states play a critical role in securely collecting attendance records, flagging chronic absenteeism, and supporting attendance interventions. The lack of statewide infrastructure to track and monitor attendance in California severely hampers school districts’ ability to reduce truancy and chronic absence. Even the most active school districts are limited in their ability to comprehensively address attendance problems without additional tools. These antiquated systems do not represent the rich history of California as a global hub of innovation, modernization and smart government systems.
School districts report that upgraded statewide infrastructure would help them to track and intervene to solve attendance problems. Survey responses from district leaders indicate a need for greater support from the state, including:
- Infrastructure to track and monitor student attendance over time and across districts;
- Reports from the state on school-level and district-level chronic absence rates, including for LCFF subgroups;
- Information on the outcomes of truancy referrals to district attorneys; and
- Greater collaboration between agencies to support students and their families who need help to improve school attendance.
Legislation sponsored by Attorney General Harris to address these district needs is currently pending in California.20
Records Need to Follow Students
California’s current methods for tracking attendance—local systems, with records that don’t follow the students—are disconnected from the transient reality of many California students. Nearly half a million California students transferred schools last year, and as many as 1 in 6 children will transfer schools two or more times by the end of third grade.21 Sixty-five percent of California students transfer at least once between 1st and 8th grade, and 26% change schools three or more times during that period.22 And the challenge of serving mobile students is even greater for disadvantaged students. School mobility is much higher for foster youth,23 homeless children,24 and migrant youth,25 for example, than it is for their peers. Moreover, school transfers are most common during elementary school.26
School district survey responses call for greater state support for their efforts to track truancy and chronic absence and more information about the outcomes of different intervention strategies.
The importance of tracking mobile elementary students’ attendance across local siloes is therefore critical to prevent a recurring pattern of poor attendance while children are young. Yet less than half of school districts that responded to our survey reported that they have a system in place to alert the receiving school about a student’s attendance history when he or she transfers into one district from another district in California. In addition, 30% of school districts surveyed reported that they still do not have the capacity to track even their local students’ attendance history longitudinally, i.e., year after year.
The experience of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), one of the most active districts in the state on attendance, illustrates the need for modern state infrastructure. At the beginning of each school year, OUSD informs every principal in the district of the school’s attendance record the previous year, as well as the history of each individual student in that school. Once the school year starts, principals and their staff receive weekly reports on attendance and chronic absence rates at their school, and a roster of students showing their attendance rate, whether they are chronically absent for the year-to-date, whether they are “at risk” of becoming chronically absent, and the number and reason for absences. Schools also learn whether some groups are experiencing especially high absenteeism (e.g. kindergarten and first grade, African American, English learners, and students with disabilities).
These model practices are only as good, however, as the stability of student enrollment at OUSD. Anytime a new student transfers into OUSD, the district is unable to serve that student in the same way it serves others. Principals do not have immediate access to that student’s attendance history, and educators are left to wait for previous attendance problems to resurface at OUSD. State attendance records would allow OUSD to implement its policies to serve all its students equally, rather than having to discover the symptoms of poor attendance anew while a child falls further and further behind.
Stopping New Students’ Attendance Problems Before they Resurface
Without the proper tools for tracking student absences, districts miss a valuable window of opportunity to preempt attendance problems that lead to educational inequity. The two best predictors of a student’s attendance problems are poor attendance in previous years and poor attendance in the first month of school.27 In order to leverage these powerful predictors and reach students before they fall too far behind, districts need the tools to:
- Track attendance year over year for each student, so that they can help correct past attendance problems before they reemerge; and
- Quickly access records for new students in the district, so that they can respond to early attendance patterns for each student at the beginning of the school year.
Statewide infrastructure would aid districts by creating a repository of student-level attendance information that is accessible to educators28 when students transfer into the district, and would allow districts to track student attendance over time. By arming districts with tools to conduct early, efficient outreach to families, more serious problems can be prevented before they develop.
AB 1866 (Bocanegra) would enhance the California Department of Education’s student record system to include a student’s attendance, chronic absence, and chronic truancy.
Need for Services for Foster Youth
Foster youth have been identified as a disadvantaged student population under LCFF as a way to target additional resources to those students with the greatest educational need. Research on the life trajectories of foster youth confirms the need to improve both local and statewide support and infrastructure for this vulnerable student population.
Foster youth are as much as two times more likely to be absent from school than other students.29 Our study of attendance rates for foster youth mirrors these high rates of absenteeism. In grades K-6, more than 1 in 5 foster students in the sample were truant in 2013-2014, and nearly 1 in 10 of those foster students missed 10% or more of the school year.
Moreover, these rates of absence are likely understated due to the difficulty of tracking foster youth as they change schools. School mobility is much higher for foster youth30 than their non-foster peers. Youth in foster care experience a change in placement about once every six months, and can move schools on average one to two times per year.31 Foster students report an average of over eight school transfers and over seven placement changes for an average of less than seven years spent in foster care.32 During these transfers, delays in school registration and missing documents from outdated records systems can cause months of lost learning time as each new district is blind to the student’s attendance problems in the previous placement.33 According to one study, “foster youth lose an average of four to six months of educational attainment each time they change schools.”34 Consequently, approximately 75% of foster youth perform below grade level standards, and by third grade 80% have had to repeat a grade. With each school change, foster youth fall further behind academically.35
Due to these and other factors, less than half (49%) of foster youth complete high school or receive their GED.36 Foster students also have lower enrollment rates in California community college, and have lower rates of persistence for a second year in community college than other disadvantaged students.37 In one study, median earnings among employed former foster youth were 59% of their peers’ income. Foster youth are also several times more likely to rely on public assistance.38 Moreover, adults who previously spent time in the foster care system are incarcerated at disproportionately higher levels in California State Penitentiaries.39
We can and must do better for our foster youth in California. Modernizing our systems to get more of them to class each day—especially in the critical early years—is an important first step.
Signs of Progress in 2014
In some counties, local school districts are working creatively and collaboratively to address the elementary school attendance crisis. Responses to our 2014 survey of school district leaders suggest that many districts have made improvements to their systems for tracking, monitoring and responding to attendance problems since the first report was published in 2013. In fact, 85% percent of school districts surveyed for the 2014 report indicated that they have now made or plan to make improvements to their efforts to combat truancy and chronic absence. Of those school districts that made changes to their attendance policies and programs, more than 60% cited an increased awareness in their district about attendance issues since 2013 as a reason for making such improvements.
Summary & Update on Key Findings from 2013:
- 2013 Finding: Truancy and absenteeism in elementary school have far-ranging implications for California’s economy, public safety, and children.
2014 Update: Newly released data from the 2012-2013 school year demonstrate that in the two years leading up to In School + On Track 2013, elementary school truancy and absenteeism were at crisis levels in California. This loss of valuable learning time, particularly for the state’s at-risk students targeted by LCFF, costs the state billions of dollars each year by increasing the burden on social services and the criminal justice system, and widening the opportunity and achievement gap.
- 2013 Finding: Student record systems need repair and upgrade to accurately measure, monitor and respond to truancy.
2014 Update: There are signs of improvement to local, intradistrict record systems since last year. However, there is still much more work to be done. The lack of a modern, comprehensive system in place across the state to track attendance creates serious gaps in information and accountability. Our records system is outdated and prevents local and state policymakers from efficiently addressing the problem.
- 2013 Finding: Early intervention—even in severe cases—can get young children back on the right track.
2014 Update: The two best predictors of attendance problems are poor attendance in the previous school year and poor attendance in the first month of school. School districts need tools to leverage this window of opportunity for early intervention when the school year begins.
New Key Findings for 2014:
- High mobility students are at greater risk in California given the current lack of statewide infrastructure for tracking attendance.
Nearly half a million students transferred schools between October 2012 and October 2013 in California. Yet, students’ attendance histories are not readily available to a receiving school when a student moves into a new district. Instead, records stay in local siloes, with no modern system to integrate and share information. The lack of information on students’ previous attendance patterns severely hampers prevention and early intervention efforts for students with historically poor attendance, including those the Local Control Funding Formula is expressly designed to assist.
- The attendance crisis disproportionately affects disadvantaged students—from higher rates of attendance to greater numbers of missed days of school due to suspensions.
Foster and low-income students have much higher rates of absenteeism and suspension when compared to the same rates for all students. For example, foster students miss nearly 5 times as many days per student for suspensions when compared to all students. Socioeconomically disadvantaged students also have higher rates of absenteeism and miss more days of school per student due to suspensions when compared to all students.40
- District Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) do not reflect many of the increased efforts districts report making to improve attendance since 2013, and do not reflect the LCFF’s intent for districts to prioritize attendance and chronic absence.
LCFF offers an important opportunity for districts to improve attendance, particularly for at-risk students. Eighty-five percent of districts surveyed reported that they have made changes to their attendance improvement efforts or plan to do so next year. Despite these efforts, however, most districts fail to adequately address attendance and chronic absence in their LCAPs. This omission is all the more glaring because one of the goals of LCFF is to provide additional resources to disadvantaged students, who are both more likely to miss school and to suffer more for each day missed.41
- Investments to improve attendance save money.
Millions of dollars have been recovered by California school districts as a direct result of their efforts to improve attendance. Not only do investments in attendance programs have the potential to improve students’ lives and long-term chances for future success, they also make good short-term financial sense for school districts. Districts we surveyed estimated gains from $1,000 to $1.3 million in additional ADA funding as a direct result of their attendance initiatives.
Summary and Update on Key 2013 Recommendations:
- 2013 Recommendation:Use the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to ensure accountability for attendance.
2014 Update: Under LCFF, school districts and counties are required to develop LCAPs that, in part, address school attendance and chronic absence. Some school district LCAPs indicate that they have already begun to implement a range of programs to improve attendance in their schools, especially for their at-risk student populations.
- 2013 Recommendation: Modernize the state’s student records collection system.
2014 Update: School districts should not be forced to work in isolation without the necessary tools to do their jobs. State infrastructure must be put in place to ensure that all districts, even small, lower-resourced districts, are able to access the attendance information necessary to effectively track and monitor attendance and chronic absence, as intended by the required LCAP “pupil engagement” priority.
- 2013 Recommendation: Expand & Improve School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs).
2014 Update: Attorney General Harris has sponsored two pieces of legislation to improve California’s system of School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs).45 Forty years ago, the legislature created SARBs to divert students and families with school attendance issues from the criminal justice system. Proposed upgrades to SARBs include improving the membership of County SARBs, and providing local governments more information on the outcomes of local SARB interventions so they can direct resources to the most effective programs. AB 1643 (Buchanan) and AB 1672 (Holden) accomplish these goals, and have been passed in the California Legislature.
- 2013 Recommendation: Critically assess any school policies that remove students from the classroom.
2014 Update: Out-of-school suspensions often operate to compound students’ time away from the classroom. Over 40% of school districts reported in our survey that they are changing discipline policies to either reduce the number of suspensions in their district or to prevent students from missing as much school for suspensions. Our analysis of suspension rates confirms that students of color miss considerably more school due to suspensions than other students and affirms the need to collect more detailed information on student suspensions by duration, grade and subgroup.
- 2013 Recommendation: District Attorneys (DAs) and other law enforcement officials should participate on SARBs and other informal or formal attendance collaborations; accept referrals to prosecute parents of chronically truant elementary school children; and prosecute only the most recalcitrant cases of truancy when all prior interventions fail.
2014 Update: Recognizing that prosecution should be a last resort, Attorney General Harris has sponsored two pieces of legislation aimed at improving law enforcement’s positive involvement in truancy prevention and intervention. AB 214146 (Hall & Bonta) requires that district attorney’s offices provide a report to school officials on the outcome of a truancy related referral, so that school officials can determine which interventions are most effective. In addition, AB 1643 (Buchanan) adds representatives of a county district attorney’s office and county public defender’s office to both county and local SARBs to enhance their ability to solve the root cause of truancy problems.
- 2013 Recommendation: Design and implement a program to communicate that school attendance is important, and it’s the law.
2014 Update: The Attorney General’s Office, along with many organizations across the state and nationally, has been working to raise awareness about the importance of school attendance and to inform parents of the negative impact missed school days can have on their children’s academic success. First, Attorney General Harris committed to release this report on an annual basis. In addition, each year the State Superintendent of Public Instruction helps to raise awareness about the importance of school attendance by recognizing model SARBs that are working to address the underlying causes of students’ attendance problems. The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court has also launched a five-year initiative—Keeping Kids In School and Out of Court—that includes increased attendance among its benchmarks of success.47 In addition, the California Endowment has pledged $50 million over seven years to initiatives aimed at supporting at-risk youth,48 which includes reducing suspension rates and improving attendance among its goals.
- President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK) highlights the need to improve attendance and academic achievement for at-risk youth, especially young boys of color.49
- The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR) has made improving school attendance a focus of their work, and has partnered with Attendance Works for a “Call to Action for Superintendents” to focus on reducing chronic absence.50
- The Boys and Men of Color initiative, a network of 40 national, regional, and community foundations, has made improving educational outcomes and school attendance a key component of its work.
The Work Ahead
Too many elementary school children are losing the chance to gain an equal education and critical life skills due to truancy and chronic absence. This costs our state billions of dollars in lost income and taxes, and costs associated with our criminal justice and social services systems.
Since the release of In School + On Track 2013, many school districts across the state have stepped up their efforts to monitor and address truancy and chronic absence. We have seen improvements in attendance programs and policies throughout California. Now we must fully implement these innovative policies to ensure we achieve significant reductions in the number of students who are truant and chronically absent. Districts need better tools and a statewide infrastructure in order to take the next step and make meaningful progress toward addressing the attendance crisis. These new tools and statewide infrastructure will also help to fulfill the central promise of LCFF—to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students. Legislative proposals offered by the Attorney General’s Office, in collaboration with lawmakers, law enforcement, educators and advocates, represent an important step forward in fully implementing LCFF and ensuring all Californians, regardless of their backgrounds, have access to equal educational opportunity in our public schools.
Special Project Team
|Kamala D. Harris||Attorney General|
|Daniel Suvor||Chief of Policy|
|Jill Habig||Special Assistant Attorney General|
|Kelsey Krausen||Education Policy Research Fellow|
|Philip Laird||Special Deputy Attorney General|
|Robert Sumner||Deputy Attorney General|
The recommendations expressed in this report are based on research and input from the staff of the Attorney General’s Special Project Team and office. These recommendations should not be considered as representing the views of any agency or organization that contributed to the report.
The Attorney General’s office thanks the many members of the education, law enforcement, and non-profit communities who generously gave their time and insight to discuss ways to combat the crisis of truancy and chronic absence in California’s elementary schools. This report reflects the hard work and dedication of the full range of community partners engaged in improving attendance for California’s youngest students. We acknowledge and thank you for your contributions to this project. Most importantly, we thank you for the work you do every day to help students and their families.
Below is a list of the over 150 schools, school districts, and county offices of education throughout California, as well as non-profit organizations and others, who have contributed to this report.
Contributors from Local Education Agencies
|Alameda County Office of Education||Allensworth Elementary School District|
|Alpaugh Unified School District||Anaheim City School District|
|Alta Vista Elementary School District||Antioch Unified School District|
|Apple Valley Unified School District||Arena Union Elementary School District|
|Atascadero Unified School District||Atwater Elementary School District|
|Auburn Union School District||Baldwin Park Unified School District|
|Ballico Cressey School District||Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary|
|Beaumont Unified School District||Bennett Valley Union School District|
|Big Creek School District||Black Butte Union Elementary School District|
|Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District||Black Oak Mine Unified School District|
|Bonita Unified School District||Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District|
|Bonsall Union School District||Burlingame School District|
|Buttonwillow Union School District||Cabrillo Unified School District|
|Calaveras Unified School District||Capistrano Unified School District|
|Carpinteria Unified School District||Carlsbad Unified School District|
|Castaic Union School District||Centralia School District|
|Ceres Unified School District||Charter Oak Unified School District|
|Chatom Union School District||Chico Country Day School|
|Chico Unified School District||Colton Joint Unified School District|
|Colusa County Office of Education||Colusa Unified School District|
|Conejo Valley Unified School District||Corcoran Unified School District|
|Coronado Unified School District||Corona-Norco Unified School District|
|Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District||Cypress School District|
|Dehesa School District||Del Mar Union School District|
|Downey Unified School DIstrict||Earlimart Elementary School District|
|Edison Elementary School District||Elk Grove Unified School District|
|Esparto Unified School District||Etiwanda School District|
|Evergreen Elementary School District||Exeter Unified School District|
|Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District||Foresthill Union School District|
|Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District||Fresno Unified School District|
|Fruitvale School District||Glendale Unified School District|
|Glendora Unified School District||Golden Valley Unified School District|
|Goleta Union School District||Grass Valley School District|
|Grenada Elementary School District||Harmony Union School District|
|Hart-Ransom Union School District||Healdsburg Unified School District|
|Hemet Unified School District||Hope Elementary School District|
|Hueneme Elementary School District||Igo, Ono, Plantina Union Elementary District|
|Indian Diggings School District||Jefferson Elementary School District|
|John Swett Unified School District||Jurupa Unified School District|
|Kelseyville Unified School District||Kirkwood School District|
|Kings County Office of Education||Knightsen Elementary School District|
|Lake Tahoe Unified School District||Lakeside Joint School District|
|Lancaster School District||Lemoore Union Elementary School District|
|Leonardo da Vinci Health Sciences Charter School||Lindsay Unified School District|
|Little Shasta Elementary School District||Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District|
|Lucia Mar Unified School District||Madera County Office of Education|
|Maple Creek Elementary School District||Marin County Office of Education|
|Mattole Unified School District||Mariposa County Unified School District|
|McCloud Union School District||McSwain Union Elementary School District|
|Menifee Union School District||Merced City Elementary School District|
|Merced River Union Elementary School District||Modoc County Office of Education|
|Monson-Sultana Joint Union School District||Montague Elementary School District|
|Monterey County Office of Education||Moreno Valley Unified School District|
|Mount Shasta Union School District||Mountain Empire School District|
|Mt. Diablo Unified School District||Murrieta Valley Unified School District|
|Natomas Unified School District||Nevada City School District|
|New Hope Elementary School District||Newark Unified School District|
|Newhall School District||Newman Crows-Landing Unified School District|
|North County Joint Union School District||North Monterey County Unified School District|
|Norwalk La Mirada Unified School District||Oak Run Elementary School District|
|Oak Grove Union Elementary School District||Oak Valley School Union School District|
|Oakland Unified School District||Oceanside Unified School District|
|Orange Unified School District||Oro Grande School District|
|Outside Creek School District||Pacific Elementary School District|
|Pacifica School District||Pajaro Valley Unified School District|
|Palm Springs Unified School District||Palmdale Elementary School District|
|Palo Verde Union Elementary School District||Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District|
|Paramount Unified School District||Patterson Joint Unified School District|
|Pierce Joint Unified School District||Pioneer Union School District|
|Pixley Union School District||Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District|
|Placerville Unified School District||Planada Elementary School District|
|Pleasant Valley Elementary School District||Pollock Pines Elementary School District|
|Pomona Unified School District||Pond Unified School District|
|Porterville Unified School District||Ready Springs Union Elementary School District|
|Red Bluff Union Elementary School District||Redlands Unified School District|
|Redding Elementary School District||Riverbank Unified School District|
|Riverside County Office of Education||Rosemead School District|
|Salinas City Elementary School District||San Bernadino County Superintendent of Schools|
|San Jacinto Valley Academy District||Sequoia Union Elementary School District|
|San Lucas Union Elementary School District||San Luis Coastal Unified School District|
|San Marcos Unified School District||San Marino Unified School District|
|Santa Barbara Unified School District||Santa Clara Elementary School District|
|Santa Maria Bonita School District||Santa Rosa City Schools|
|Santa Ynez Valley Union High School||Santee School District|
|Saugus Union School District||Shasta Union Elemetary School District|
|Sierra Sands Unified School District||SOAR Charter Academy School|
|Sonoma County Office of Education: County Office Alternative Education Programs||Sonoma Valley Unified School District|
|Southern Trinity Joint Unified School District||Southside School District|
|Springville Union Elementary School District||Standard Elementary School District|
|Sunnyside Union School District||Sutter County Superintendent of Schools Office|
|Sylvan Union School District||Tehachapi Unified School District|
|Terra Bella Union Elementary School District||Three Rivers Union School District|
|Torrance Unified School District||Traver Joint Elementary School District|
|Travis Unified School District||Tres Pinos Union Elementary School District|
|Tulare City School District||Turlock Unified School District|
|Vacaville Unified School District||Val Verde Unified School District|
|Visalia Unified School District||Vista Unified School District|
|Weaver Union Elementary School District||Weed Union Elementary School District|
|West Park Elementary School District||Westminster School District|
|Wheatland School District||Wiseburn School District|
|Woodland Joint Unified School District||Yuba City Unified School District|
|Yuba County Office of Education|
|Attendance Works||Baldwin Hills Elementary School|
|Blackboard, Inc.||California Endowment|
|Children Now||Eagle Software|
|East Oakland Pride Elementary School||Fight Crime: Invest in Kids|
|Los Angeles Unified School District||Oakland Unified School District|
This report benefits from the counsel and support of the Special Project Team and many other contributors involved with the California Attorney General’s Truancy project.
Thanks to the following individuals from the Attorney General’s office for their contributions to this report: Brian Nelson, Special Assistant Attorney General; Juan Rodriguez, Special Assistant Attorney General; Brandon Kiel, Deputy Director for Community Affairs; Angela Sierra, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Nancy A. Beninati, Supervising Deputy Attorney General; Michael Newman, and Catherine Z. Ysrael, Deputy Attorneys General; Sonja Diaz, Special Deputy Attorney General; Vijay Das, Education Policy Research Fellow; Justin Ito, Daniel Shiah, Curtis Dao, and Timm Le, Website Design Team; Janine Shimomura, Executive Assistant; Ariel Eckblad, Keith Yetter, and Jeannette Acosta, Legal Research Interns; Elliot Horen, Vishakha Joshi, Spencer Perry, and Jingxi Zhai, Executive Office Interns.
Attorney General Harris is also grateful to our invaluable partners – The California Endowment, Children Now, Attendance Works, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Eagle Software, and the California Department of Education – for their generous support and feedback on this report.
In addition, special thanks are extended to: Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Nancy O’Malley, District Attorney, Alameda County; Hedy Chang, Director, Attendance Works; Brad Strong, Senior Director, Education Policy, Children Now; Brian Lee, California State Director, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; Barbara Raymond, Director, Schools & Neighborhoods Policy, The California Endowment; Gordon Jackson, Assistant Superintendent, California Department of Education; David Kopperud, State School Attendance Review Board Chairperson, California Department of Education; Elizabeth Dearstyne, Administrator, School Fiscal Services Division, California Department of Education; Marc Riera, Data Reporting Office, California Department of Education; Jennifer Gomeztrejo, Consultant II, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Child Welfare & Attendance; Sheila Silan, Program Coordinator, Dee Alimbini, Stockton Unified School District, Brian Gonzalez, Kings County Office of Education, Lydia Bodin, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, El Dorado County Office of Education; Brent Lloyd, Vice President, Eagle Software; Camden Iliff, Director of Programming, Eagle Software; Melissa Morgan, former Senior Manager, K-12 Solutions Marketing, Blackboard, Inc.; Jennie Breister, Senior Marketing Manager, K-12 Customer Adoption, Blackboard Inc.; John Deasy, Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District; Antwan Wilson, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District; Teresa Drenick, Assistant District Attorney, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office; David Chen, Deputy District Attorney, Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office; Theresa Clincy and Jean Wing, Oakland Unified School District; Regina Jackson, East Oakland Youth Development Center; Jacqueline Perl, Principal, East Oakland Pride Elementary School; Dr. Letitia Johnson-Davis, Principal, Baldwin Hills Elementary School; Elizabeth Torres, Family & Community Resource Center, East Oakland Pride Elementary School; Kris Bergstrom, Director of Communications, Santa Barbara County Education Office; Sherrie Reed, PhD Candidate, UC Davis School of Education, Carrie Hahnel, Director of Research & Policy Analysis, The Education Trust-West.
- See Attendance in Early Elementary Grades: Associations with Student Characteristics, School Readiness, and Third Grade Outcomes, ATTENDANCE WORKS (July 2011), http://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/ASR-Mini-Report-Attendance-Readiness-and-Third-Grade-Outcomes-7-8-11.pdf. See also Alan Ginsburg, Phyllis Jordan, and Hedy Chang, Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success ATTENDANCE WORKS (September 2014), http://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Absenses-Add-Up_September-3rd-2014.pdf. And see Michael A. Gottfried, Excused versus Unexcused: How Student Absences in Elementary School Affect Academic Achievement, EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION AND POLICY ANALYSIS, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Dec. 2009), pp. 392-415.
- Byron L. Barrington & Bryan Hendricks, Differentiating Characteristics of High School Graduates, Dropouts, and Nongraduates, THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH 82, 6 (July 1989).
- Study: Dropouts Cost State $46.4 Billion, CALIFORNIA DROPOUT PREVENTION RESEARCH PROJECT (Oct. 8, 2007), http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/dropouts/news.htm.
- Monitoring Chronic Absence: Regular Attendance is Essential to Succeeding in School (noting that forty-five states collect data on students’ total absences, which can be used to calculate chronic absence), ATTENDANCE WORKS, DATA QUALITY CAMPAIGN, http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/files/DQCChronicAbsenceFeb26.pdf.
- Both years of data precede In School + On Track 2013 and offer a baseline for future efforts to improve attendance across California. Truancy is defined as missing three or more full-day absences or absences of more than 30 minutes, without an excuse, in a school year (CAL. EDUC. CODE § 48293).
- Estimates from the study are based on a sample size of 147,000 students in 35 school districts around the state. See Appendix B for more information about the study’s methodology.
- Based on survey responses from the 2014 survey of California school district leaders.
- Michael A. Gottfried, Chronic Absenteeism and Its Effects on Students’ Academic and Socioemotional Outcomes, JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS PLACED AT RISK (in press).
- Alan Ginsburg, Phyllis Jordan & Hedy Chang, Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success, ATTENDANCE WORKS (Sept. 2014), http://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Absenses-Add-Up_September-3rd-2014.pdf (citing Michael A. Gottfried, Chronic Absenteeism and Its Effects on Students’ Academic and Socioemotional Outcomes, JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS PLACED AT RISK (in press)).
- Id. at 2, 10 (noting that researchers who interpret NAEP data estimate that 10 points on the NAEP scale is the equivalent of one grade worth of skills. That figure was derived by dividing the roughly 40 points between grades 4 and 8 on the NAEP reading and math scales by 4 to represent an average grade change) .
- Id. at 4.
- Average Daily Attendance (ADA) is calculated by dividing the total days of student attendance by the total days of instruction. ADA is then multiplied by a certain dollar amount, which varies by grade, to determine the amount of funding a district or county will receive for the year.
- Most Districts Fail to Adequately Address Chronic Absence in their LCAPs, FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS CALIFORNIA, ATTENDANCE WORKS, CH1LDREN NOW (August 2014) http://www.childrennow.org/uploads/documents/CA_LCAP_Analysis.pdf
- My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President, The White House 37-38 (May 2014), http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/053014_mbk_report.pdf.
- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Package of Truancy Legislation Passes State Legislature (August 28, 2014), http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-announces-package-truancy-legislation-passes.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office (1994).
- Russell W. Rumberger, Katherine A. Larson, Robert K. Ream & Gregory J. Palardy, The Educational Consequences of Mobility for California Students and Schools, University of California, Santa Barbara 23-24 (February 1999), http://mina.education.ucsb.edu/rumberger/internet%20pages/Papers/Stuart%20Report--final.pdf.
- Vanessa X. Barrat, Beth Ann Berliner, The Invisible Achievement Gap: Education Outcomes of Students in Foster Care in California’s Public Schools THE CENTER FOR THE FUTURE OF TEACHING & LEARNING AT WESTED (2013), http://www.stuartfoundation.org/docs/default-document-library/the-invisible-achievement-gap-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2.
- Within a single year, 97 percent of children who are homeless move up to three times and 40 percent attend two different schools. One-third will repeat a grade. The National Center on Family Homelessness: The Cost of Homelessness, http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/media/266.pdf.
- Migrant Education: Basic State Formula Grants, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, 2005-2006 http://www2.ed.gov/programs/mep/resources.html.
- Russell W. Rumberger, Katherine A. Larson, Robert K. Ream & Gregory J. Palardy, The Educational Consequences of Mobility for California Students and Schools, POLICY ANALYSIS FOR CALIFORNIA EDUCATION (Feb. 1999), http://mina.education.ucsb.edu/rumberger/internet%20pages/Papers/Stuart%20Report--final.pdf.
- Faith Connolly & Linda S. Olson, Early Elementary Performance and Attendance in Baltimore City Schools’ Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, BALTIMORE EDUCATION RESEARCH CONSORTIUM (Mar. 2012), http://www.baltimore-berc.org/pdfs/PreKKAttendanceFullReport.pdf. See also Alan Ginsburg, Phyllis Jordan & Hedy Chang, Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success, ATTENDANCE WORKS (Sept. 2014), http://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Absenses-Add-Up_September-3rd-2014.pdf.
- This statewide infrastructure would operate within state and federal pupil data systems, like the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement System (CALPADS), and follow their protection of the privacy and confidentiality of student information through compliance with applicable state and federal privacy laws—namely the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g. Under FERPA, CALPADS is able to disclose pupil information to parents and eligible students, and to other parties without parent or student consent in certain situations, including when school officials have a legitimate educational interest; the student is transferring to a new school; or specified officials are conducting an audit or evaluation. 34 C.F.R. § 99.31.
- Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care, RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS ON EDUCATION AND FOSTER CARE (January 2014), http://formedfamiliesforward.org/images/Fostering-success-in-Education-Jan-2014.pdf.
- West Ed. The Invisible Achievement Gap, (2013), www.stuartfoundation.org. Study is based on students in California.
- Legal Center for Foster Care & Education, Questions and Answers: Credit Transfer and School Completion, http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/child/education/QA_2_Credits_FINAL.authcheckdam.pdf
- M. Sullivan, L. Jones, & S. Mathiesen, “School Change, Academic Progress, and Behavior Problems in a Sample of Foster Youth.” Children and Youth Services Review 32 (2010): 164-170.
- The Vera Institute of Justice, Foster Children: How You Can Create A Positive Educational Experience for the Foster Child, http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/Foster_children.pdf.
- Thomas R. Wolanin, Higher Education Opportunities for Foster Youth: A Primer for Policy Makers. THE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY (December 2005), http://www.ihep.org/Publications/publications-detail.cfm?id=58 (accessed December 20, 2011).
- Kerbow, 1996
- Understanding Foster Youth Educational Outcomes, CALIFORNIA CHILD WELFARE CO-INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP (Fall 2011), http://www.co-invest.org/resources/347252_CFPIC_Insights.pdf; Children Now, 2014 California Children’s Report Card (2014), http://www.childrennow.org/uploads/documents/CN2014_education_foster_youth.pdf.
- Kristine Frerer, Lauren Davis Sosenko, & Robin R. Henke, At Greater Risk: California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College (March 2013), http://www.stuartfoundation.org/docs/default-document-library/at-greater-risk-california-foster-youth-and-the-path-from-high-school-to-college.pdf?sfvrsn=6.
- Mark Courtney, Policy Brief: Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, NETWORK ON TRANSITIONS TO ADULTHOOD (April 2005), http://transitions.s410.sureserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/courtney-foster-care.pdf.
- It has been brought to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office that the 70% incarceration rate formerly reported in this chapter was incorrect. The accurate statistic will be updated accordingly once it is made available by the relevant agencies.
- Comparisons between subgroups and “all students” are complicated by the fact that rates for the individual subgroup cannot be removed from the “all students” category for analysis.
- See Monika Sanchez, Truancy and Chronic Absence in Redwood City, JOHN W. GARDNER CENTER FOR YOUTH AND THEIR COMMUNITIES, STANFORD SCHOOL OF EDUCATION (Apr. 2012), http://tinyurl.com/mlsvvqb. See also The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc., Taking Attendance Seriously: How School Absences Undermine Student and School Performance in New York City (May 2011), http://tinyurl.com/knebtlk. And see Mariajosé Romero & Young-Sun Lee, A National Portrait of Chronic Absenteeism in the Early Grades, NATIONAL CENTER FOR CHILDREN IN POVERTY (July, 2007), http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_771.pdf.
- Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template, http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/tr/ago_sample_lcap.pdf.
- California Funding Formula: Brief and Handouts, ATTENDANCE WORKS, http://www.attendanceworks.org/policy-advocacy/state-reports/california/california-funding-brief-accountable-for-attendance/.
- A.B. 1866, 2013 -14 Regular Session, (Ca. 2014) http://tinyurl.com/k6ywa6v.
- A.B. 1643, 2013 – 14 Regular Session, (Ca. 2014) http://tinyurl.com/kz395zy. A.B. 1672, 2013 -14 Regular Session, (Ca. 2014) http://tinyurl.com/lyazhhm.
- A.B. 2141, 2013 -14 Regular Session, (Ca. 2014) http://tinyurl.com/mllowa8.
- Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court Summit, JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA (2014), http://www.courts.ca.gov/23902.htm.
- Health happens w/all our sons & brothers, THE CALIFORNIA ENDOWMENT, http://www.calendow.org/sonsandbrothers.aspx.
- Fact Sheet: President Obama Applauds New Commitments in Support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, THE WHITE HOUSE (July 21, 2014), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/21/fact-sheet-president-obama-applauds-new-commitments-support-my-brother-s.
- The Superintendents Call to Action, ATTENDANCE WORKS, http://www.attendanceworks.org/superintendents-call-to-action/.