Making Progress, Taking Action in Oakland Schools
The Oakland Achieves Partnership, a coalition of community organizations, is pleased to release “Attending School Every Day: Making Progress, Taking Action in Oakland Schools,” a report on attendance in Oakland public schools written by the Urban Strategies Council.
This report makes the case that attendance in school is a more nuanced and critical issue than the simple fact that kids need to be in school to learn. The data in Oakland, consistent with national data, show the powerful impact that chronic absence – being absent 10% of school days or 9 days per semester – has on achievement outcomes.
Chronically absent students in Oakland’s public schools were less than half as likely to be proficient in reading and math on the California Standards Test than students with consistent attendance.
Further, we know that the attendance picture is not an even playing field. African American students, students in foster care, and students with disabilities have far more concerning attendance patterns than other groups. In addition, differences in grade level are also critical to consider in strategies around attendance – kindergarteners and high school students are far more likely to be chronically absent than students in other grade levels. Tracking the attendance of individual students and student groups allows schools and the District to develop a comprehensive plan around attendance that targets unique needs, not only of those students with the most severe attendance problems, but of all students in the school.
Perhaps most importantly, the report focuses on what can be done and what is being done. We detail strategies suggested by a national leader in this field, Attendance Works; along with strategies being employed by the Oakland Unified School District, where chronic absence has dropped from 16% in 2005-06 to 11% in 2012-13. We also detail strategies being successfully employed by schools who had previously struggled with attendance and strategies that we can all employ to help kids get to school.
There are so many intractable problems in society, but this is an issue where there are things that we can do. We try in the report to emphasize that this is an issue that can be impacted and that good work is already going on. The first thing that we need to do is to get past the blame of parents and start looking at the challenges that they are facing. Health problems, transportation issues, community violence and other family struggles related to poverty are often at the root of absenteeism.