Monday, September 01, 2014


School Innovations & Achievement



from the SI&A  Newsroom |

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Package of Truancy Legislation Passes State Legislature

State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General
Kamala D. Harris ~ Attorney General

Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that a package of legislation to help local school districts and communities address California’s elementary school truancy crisis has passed out of both legislative houses and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

“Each year approximately one million California elementary school children are truant from class. Good education policies are meaningless if students aren’t at their desks,” Attorney General Harris said. “I applaud the legislature for bringing us one step closer to stopping this crisis.”

If signed into law, these bills will:

Help schools and counties work with parents to address the core reasons behind truancy and chronic absence.
Give local school districts and counties tools to comply with attendance tracking requirements in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), state truancy mandates and state and federal reporting requirements.
Modernize state and local systems to track and prevent truancy and chronic absence.
Ensure that schools, districts, counties and the state can evaluate the success of interventions to combat truancy and chronic absence.

Attorney General Harris announced her sponsorship of the four bills and introduced the legislative package at a March 10, 2014 press conference with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Assemblymembers Raul Bocanegra, Rob Bonta, Joan Buchanan, Isadore Hall and Chris Holden.

A complete list of education, public policy, and law enforcement leaders and organizations who have endorsed the legislation is available here:

The legislation will, if signed, put recommended reforms from Attorney General Harris’ 2013 report, In School + On Track ( into law. The report contained the first state-wide statistics on California’s elementary school truancy crisis. It revealed that in the 2012-2013 school year, 1 million elementary school students were truant and 250,000 elementary school students missed 18 or more school days at a cost of $1.4 billion in lost funds to California school districts. Annually, dropouts cost California taxpayers an estimated $46.4 billion in incarceration, lost productivity and lost taxes.

Next month, Attorney General Harris will issue the 2014 In School + On Track report containing updated statewide figures on elementary school truancy and its fiscal impact on local school districts.

Attorney General Harris’ Truancy Legislation Package:

ASSEMBLY BILL 1866 - Statewide Attendance Data System

Author: Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra

Adds truancy and absenteeism to the information collected by the state Department of Education. California is one of only a few states in the country that does not collect student attendance data. This bill will allow local school districts to monitor and analyze attendance patterns, as required under the Local Control Funding Formula.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1672 - Enhanced Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) Reports

Author: Assemblymember Chris Holden

Expands annual reports from local School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) to include information on student enrollment, absence and truancy rates, district attorney referrals and SARB intervention outcomes. Current annual SARB reports provide minimal information about intervention outcomes, so it is difficult to get the full picture of SARB efforts around the state. This bill ensures schools, districts and counties can evaluate the success of truancy intervention efforts.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1643 - Improved SARBs

Author: Assemblymember Joan Buchanan

Adds representatives of a county district attorney’s office and county public defender’s office to both county and local School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs). This will provide local courts with a broader understanding of attendance issues and will enhance the ability of SARBs to solve the root cause of truancy problems.

ASSEMBLY BILL 2141 - District Attorney Referral Outcome Reports

Authors: Assemblymember Isadore Hall, Assemblymember Rob Bonta

Requires that district attorney’s offices provide a report to school officials on the outcome of a truancy related referral. This helps school officials determine which outcomes are most effective and guarantees baseline information sharing between referring agencies and prosecutors.

Reposted from the SI&A  Newsroom |

The costs of chronic absences

The Bakersfield Californian
By: The Bakersfield Californian and Al Sandrini
Posted: June 2, 2014

It's unfortunate that when people talk about truancy or school absences it is always through the prism of lost funding to schools. There is a much larger, dangerous and destructive effect of truancy/chronic absences I choose to address: the impact of students not learning.

Research abounds that if kids miss school at any age -- but especially in the first three or four years of school -- though not destined, they are heading toward that well-known "school-to-jail pipeline" where citizens' taxes are paid to incarcerate them instead of educate them.

Did you know that, nationally, 1,300 teens drop out of school every day? Did you know 500,000 kids drop out every year? In California, for every 120,000 high school dropouts, the state loses $45 billion due to lost tax income, crime prevention expenses and other costs (California Dropout Research Project). Over two-thirds of dropouts will use food stamps to pay for food and other necessities. Dropouts make up 30 percent of federal prisoners, 40 percent of state prisoners and 50 percent of all prisoners on death row.

Guess what? A leading contributor, in addition to poverty, to those startling numbers is chronic absences of children between kindergarten and Grade 3. Chronic absences are described as missing 10 percent or more of school for any reason -- excused, unexcused, etc. In 2012, five out of six elementary schools in Oakland, Calif., reported between 12-16 percent of their students were chronically absent. Students chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently in third grade. Chronic absences within families seldom "spike" from year to year. Analysis by Attendance Works provides that each year of chronic absence in elementary school is associated with a substantially higher probability of chronic absence in the sixth grade. Lower test scores and higher levels of suspension are also measurable impacts on chronic absences in a student's early years.

Over 61 percent of high school seniors who dropped out of school in a Utah study were chronically absent during their four years of high school, according to the Utah Data Alliance.

Three massive myths perpetuate this problem: 1) Absences are only a problem if they are unexcused. 2) Sporadic versus consecutive absences aren't a problem. 3) Attendance only matters in the older grades. (As a life-long educator, I must confess to falling victim to the first one.)

Why do primary age kids miss school? A variety of reasons exist, but the root of chronic absences can often be found when one of the following conditions exists: The child is struggling academically. There's a lack of engaging instruction. There's a poor school climate or ineffective school discipline. The child's parents had negative school experiences. Or, the child lives in poverty.

What has to happen to change this self-fulfilling prophecy? It's never easy, but the answer lies in that we must first recognize chronic absences as a problem. Second, we must recognize it is not just a school problem but a societal problem. Third, and most difficult, we must change the culture and attitude of schools and parents that excused absences are OK.

In December 2013, at the invitation of Juvenile Court Judge William Palmer and several others from Kern, I had the good fortune to attend a summit, "Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court Initiative," sponsored by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Representatives from each county in California were challenged to address this problem at the local level.

Over that past several months, we have met with representatives from the offices of the district attorney, public health, welfare, probation, foster care and TRACK (Truancy Reduction & Attendance Coalition of Kern). In Kern, we were fortunate to discover we had the superstructure in TRACK (led by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools) to begin our assault on chronic absences. We needed to reach beyond Truancy to focus on all absences, and we need cooperative work of all agencies -- from the mayor's office, to the Kern County Board of Supervisors, to any person who wants to create a better world for our current youth and future adults.

It will take more than the resolutions adopted by local leaders. It will take more than laws passed in Sacramento (Local Control and Accountability Plan). It will take more than schools accepting chronic absences as injurious to the future of students. It will take more than educating parents that accumulative absences are harmful to their children, and they must find the will to get them to school on time and ready to work.

September has been declared "Attendance Awareness Month." Let's not wait until then to start our efforts to improve attendance. Let the discussion and eventual solutions to chronic absences and its impact on society begin today.

Photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian. Al Sandrini is former superintendent of the Norris School District and former executive director of the Sacramento-based Small School Districts' Association.

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