by Tom Chorneau, SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet http://bit.ly/1KAMMUv
September 03, 2015 (Calif.) :: The state board moved Wednesday to hold elementary and middle schools accountable for a minimum attendance rate of 90 percent – three ticks under the staff recommendation made earlier this month.
The target would serve as one indicator to be used for federal monitoring as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.
In making the move, board members clarified that adoption of the 90 percent attendance goal was only to meet federal accountability purposes and not necessarily reflective of state school performance goals.
“I, for one, prefer that the feds not drive our agenda,” said member Sue Burr, who noted the action Wednesday amounted to a technical amendment to an agreement the state has with the U.S. Department of Education called the federal accountability workbook.
“This is not about our accountability system,” she said. “That’s going to be part of a big conversation tomorrow and going forward.”
Burr and others also said that they had previously signaled their intent to set the bar at 90 percent – not 93 percent as proposed by the California Department of Education – and moving the goal upward would be unfair at this time.
Some stakeholders said 93 percent attendance isn’t a high standard and keeping the rate at 90 percent sends the wrong message.
“We don’t want to miscommunicate to districts that 93 percent attendance is good,” said Brad Strong, a senior policy director for Children Now, who pointed out that an attendance rate in the mid-90s could also disguise very high numbers of students who are chronically absent – defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year.
A school’s rate of chronic absenteeism among students is one indicator the board is likely to include in California’s new accountability system, currently under development. Staff is also recommending that the board use it – that discussion is expected to be part of an agenda item at today’s meeting.
A memo out this week from the California Department of Education said that “the impact of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and dropout rates, and its correlation with attendance data suggest that chronic absenteeism would be a good indicator in the new multiple measures accountability system.”
The action follows adoption earlier this year of several amendments to the state’s federally-required accountability plan, one of which was using attendance data to replace California’s Academic Performance Index as an indicator of Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Amendments to the plan, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, are being made even as Congress is considering a rewrite of the federal education law that, as written, would return broad authority over accountability reporting requirements to the states. A CDE staff report notes, for instance, that 2015 could be the last year the agency is required to produce the AYP report if NCLB is reauthorized this fall.
California – one of only six states in the nation not granted a waiver from meeting the performance mandates set out in NCLB – has gone its own way, refusing to report test scores not aligned to current curriculum and negotiating with federal officials on alternate methods for accountability.
The state board in January approved seven amendments to the so-called Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook, including replacing the test score-based API. That move effectively gave students and teachers another year to adjust to the new content standards without having to worry about performance requirements.
While statewide testing is a part of the plan being worked out between state and federal officials, according to CDE, an additional indicator is still needed.
For K-8 schools, the additional indicator would be average daily attendance. For high schools, the additional indicator would be graduation rates.
The CDE does not currently collect attendance data that would allow for calculation of a chronic absenteeism rate. According to the staff memo, it is “developing a plan to collect the necessary attendance data through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS).”
The timeline calls for the data to be available in 2016–17.
Research indicates that schools with an attendance rate below 93 percent are more likely to have high concentrations of absenteeism. As a result, the CDE is recommending that the attendance rate target be set at 93 percent for elementary and middle grades.
“This recommendation aligns with the California research that indicates schools with ADA rates below 93 percent are more likely to have high concentration of absenteeism,” staff wrote.
In addition, they pointed out, “The research regarding the impact of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and dropout rates, and its correlation with attendance data suggest that chronic absenteeism would be a good indicator in the new multiple measures accountability system.”
Use of attendance as a federal performance indicator has some precedence. According to a memo from the CDE, 12 states have received federal approval to use attendance as one of the measures.
Although California is one of only a handful of states that does not collect student attendance data from its schools, districts are required to collect and report rates of attendance and absenteeism as part of their Local Control Accountability Plans – the state’s new mechanism for how schools will communicate a wide range of performance measures.
The CDE had proposed that the state board set the attendance benchmark at 90 percent for both elementary and middle schools but members wanted to see research and data supporting that as a target.