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The “New Normal” in School Attendance: Part 1

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By SchoolStatus 3 min

The Crisis in California

When California schools reopened in 2023, business teams in Local Education Agencies (LEAs) finalized their First Interim and budget reports to show how the first 3 months of the school year trended. As part of the reconciliation process done in creating the First Interim, LEAs update their enrollment, calculate their current Average Daily Attendance (ADA) rate, and make expenditure and revenue adjustments along with the incorporation of carryover funds that will change their original adopted budget. 

For LEAs, one of the most critical indicators for developing budget assumptions is the percentage of Average Daily Attendance, which ultimately drives revenue projections. Through the pandemic, districts saw the changes in families’ and students’ behaviors regarding the value of attendance. For instance, LEAs spent the height of pandemic messaging families if students showed up to school with any Covid symptoms and required them to stay home. The alternative to attending school was the push for a more robust independent study. However, this did not have the engagement results for students that districts hoped for. 

What districts need is a platform to manage attendance, communicate with families, and implement direct forms of engagement now that in-person learning has returned. SchoolStatus Attend is the most effective way for a district to tackle patterns of chronic absenteeism. The data-driven attendance management platform and processes provide automatic interventions and positive reinforcement to support student success, increase daily attendance, and reduce administrative overhead.

In 2019-2020 the Mean ADA in California was 95.82% for LEAs. The nominal range for LEAs that year was 94.0% – 97%, with most LEAs falling within that band. The context of this figure: the average student was absent 7.5 days in 2019-2020.

Fast forward to the last school year, 2021-2022. The Mean ADA for LEAs dropped to 91.01%, according to data sources are the California Department of Education apportionment files. This decline showed the average student in California missed 16.2 days––more than double 2019-2020.

This number of absences is less than 2 days away from being labeled as chronically absent

In the beginning weeks of 2023, the focus on ongoing chronic absenteeism was widespread. In that short period of time, reports were published in California (see also: 2, and 3), Nevada, South Dakota, Illinois (see also: 2), Michigan, Connecticut (see also: 2), New York (see also: 2), New Jersey (see also: 2), Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Arkansas (see also: 2), Georgia (see also: 2), Alabama, Kansas (see also: 2), Virginia (see also: 2), Mississippi, Texas, Canada (Manitoba), and the United Kingdom. National articles came out in The 74, the Tech Advocate, The Blaze, K-12 Deep Dive, and U.S. News and World reports.

After reading these reports, it is clear there is a crisis in education and the old methods of addressing absenteeism are no longer working. The punitive nature of a truancy focus needs to be replaced with a proactive approach. Solutions can be found by helping districts restore educational focus and improve student achievement. Students who attend school regularly are more likely to have higher academic achievement, higher future earnings, and better health outcomes. If absenteeism continues, not only is valuable instruction time lost, but we could lose an entire generation of learners which would have a dire impact on the global economy in the decades beginning in 2040 and beyond.

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SchoolStatus is a unified K-12 platform that enables districts and schools to engage more families and improve attendance with our easy-to-use communications hub and data-driven attendance solutions. We support an integrated and impactful educational experience, from district leadership to families at home. With more than two hundred million successful school-home interactions, and millions of users, SchoolStatus drives meaningful results for districts and schools across the US.
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