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Truancy report reveals consequences of chronic absenteeism
TUSD uses positive approach to keep students in school

For truant students, an unexcused absence not only jeopardizes one day of learning, but a lifetime of academic success.

Truancy, or unexcused absences from school, was shown to increase the likelihood of a student dropping out of high school and facing lifelong economic consequences, according to a new report released by the Center for American Progress.

According to the “The High Cost of Truancy,” being present each and every day is critical to student success, especially for low-income students and minority students, both of which face a variety of educational barriers.

A number of concrete and actionable federal, state, and local policy recommendations to combat truancy were included in the report, including the need to improve data collection for early warning systems and the importance of increasing the accessibility and availability of education programs.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris joined forces with the Center for American Progress to combat elementary school truancy. Harris is also set to release her annual report on California’s elementary school truancy and absenteeism crisis, “In School + On Track,” next month.

“Debates about our nation’s public education system are moot if our children aren’t in class,” said Harris. “Truancy is a major problem in California and nationwide, resulting in significant economic loss and increased public safety costs. This report should serve as a call to action, because every child deserves an equal education.”

Turlock Unified School District Director of Student Services Gil Ogden said that he regards truancy and attendance both as significant issues, since a student that attends school regularly is more likely to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life. Conversely, poor attendance beginning as early as kindergarten was linked to dropout patterns.

“Research is clear that good attendance begins in kindergarten and students that miss 10 percent or more of the year in grade school fall behind academically and later tend to drop out at higher rates,” said Ogden. “TUSD takes a proactive approach as it provides supports for students with attendance issues beginning in kindergarten.”

Ogden said that TUSD considers chronic absences, or missing 10 percent of school for any reason including excused and unexcused absences, as an important indicator of student success.

“Studies suggest that students with chronic absenteeism show a lack of proficiency in reading by third grade and eventual higher course failure and dropout rates,” said Ogden.

Ogden said that in order to combat truancy, TUSD is using its Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports  to encourage site principals to cultivate a school-wide culture of attendance, while also encouraging school staff to increase positive interactions and support with students.

“We found that negative reinforcement, consequences, police or court involvement do not improve attendance and may further alienate students and families from the educational progress,” said Ogden. “The key to increasing attendance and student engagement is the development of positive relationships with students and staff members.”

“Thus, the emphasis of our PBIS training last March and the implantation this school year will be on increasing positive staff and student interactions,” continued Ogden.

All school sites throughout TUSD are also required to hold School Attendance Review Team meetings for students that accumulate five unexcused absences and to monitor students with chronic attendance issues.

Through these meetings, SART can partner with the family and student in order to develop a Student Attendance Success Plan, assign a California State University, Stanislaus mentor or school chaplain, connect with engaging school related activities, and provide staff with resources that allow the student to check in each day.

Ogden said that TUSD will also continue to provide traditional truancy measures, including parent phone calls for absences, truancy letters, parent conferences, home visits, counseling, district attendance review conferences, county SARB referrals, and, if necessary, involvement with law enforcement or juvenile court system.