School News from the Superintendent’s Office
Laguna Beach Unified School District
Every Student, Every Day: Improving school attendance is vital to student success
Nationally, nearly 8 million students miss almost a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year according to Data Matters.
Each September, schools, city agencies, and others in the United States join a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.
In the Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), Goal 1 of the Local Control and Accountability Plan is to “increase student academic achievement and social and emotional strength through collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.” A key metric in measuring progress towards this goal is chronic absenteeism, due to the significant impact school attendance has on student learning outcomes.
Chronic absenteeism is described as missing 10 percent of the school year -- or about 18 days -- for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research indicates that this is the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance.
In 2016-17, California identified chronic absenteeism as a metric in the state’s accountability system and provided schools and districts with the data to help guide improvement efforts. This initial data identified that the LBUSD chronic absenteeism rate was higher than the state and county average, which prompted a systematic look at existing attendance processes and procedures districtwide to identify areas that needed more focused efforts. To help support the implementation of our new processes and procedures, in 2017-18 the LBUSD Board of Education approved the addition of a second high school attendance specialist.
In recent years, LBUSD has taken data-driven steps to ensure that children are attending school more regularly. Using chronic absence data as a diagnostic tool, staff implemented a comprehensive three-tiered approach focused on prevention, early intervention, and intensive intervention.
LBUSD’s prevention efforts focus on universal strategies to encourage good attendance for all students, including raising parent awareness, recognizing students for positive attendance, and data progress monitoring. District schools provide early intervention for students who need more support to avoid chronic absence, which includes systematic parent notification, staff outreach to families, and counseling if necessary. Finally, when needed, intensive intervention provides support for students facing the greatest challenges to getting to school in coordination with district and county attendance review boards. Using this approach, chronic absenteeism has dropped nearly 50 percent over the last two years.
A year ago LBUSD’s rate dropped below the statewide average and will likely fall below the county average when that data is released later this fall. The chronic absenteeism rates for LBUSD schools and district are listed in Figure 1 below, including the year-to-year changes.
Figure 1: Chronic Absenteeism in LBUSD
Improving school attendance is not a solo effort. While attendance improvements may begin in a single classroom, school, or district, the most effective and sustainable approaches are data-driven and supported by coordinated prevention and intervention. These key ingredients of change have been instrumental in the success of students and schools in Laguna Beach and the surrounding areas we serve. In 2019-2020, LBUSD will continue to focus on solidifying meaningful relationships critical to the success of our students.
Note: Dr. Chad Mabery, director of assessment and accountability, contributed to this report.