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 Local Districts Recognized for Attendance and Dropout Prevention

​Two local school districts were among the 11 educational agencies the State School Attendance Review Board recently recognized as models of attendance improvement and dropout prevention.

Escondido Union School District and Grossmont Union High School District will receive the awards April 24 at the State Conference of the California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance in Napa.

A more progressive, data-driven approach to absenteeism by award-winning local and county school attendance review boards—or SARBs—provides examples other districts can follow to keep students in the classroom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.

“In California, we have a group of exceptional SARBs using data-driven strategies to reduce their chronic absenteeism rates, improve overall attendance, and reduce dropout rates,” Torlakson said. “You can have the best facilities, the best teachers, and the best curriculum in the world, but none of that matters if students are not in school.”

Local and county SARBs are created by school districts and county offices of education to identify and assist students with attendance problems that may be due to chronic illness, truancy, transportation problems, disabilities, or behavioral health issues. Students and families are referred for SARB hearings when a school has tried and failed to resolve attendance or behavior problems.

The Model SARB award recognizes excellence in specific content areas, including community collaboration and measuring and reporting outcomes for chronic absenteeism and overall district attendance.

Recent studies have shown that chronic absenteeism that begins in kindergarten can result in major reading problems by third grade. Many students’ academic struggles can be traced to early attendance problems.

“We are making progress with a greater awareness of how chronic absenteeism in the early grades contributes to the state’s dropout problem, and we are excited about how this early identification and intervention will lead to lower dropout rates,” Torlakson said.

The California Department of Education is partnering with county offices of education to help school districts use attendance tracking technology to identify students with attendance problems and implement early intervention strategies.

Torlakson said collaboration between school districts and the community is critical to keeping students in school.

“Schools cannot succeed alone,” he said. “This is not just about what schools can do, but what communities must do by working together on SARB teams.”

The State SARB makes recommendations regarding the needs of and services to high-risk youth. State SARB members evaluated applications for the recognition program submitted by local SARBs and county SARBs throughout the state.

The 11 model SARBs that serve California school districts and counties now can act as mentors to help other county and district programs improve their chronic absenteeism rates, attendance rates, and dropout rates.