If Lorain City Schools is to achieve its goal of having all students in its district on track for college, careers, or the military upon graduation by 2025, it must first s ensure that students attend classes regularly.
The school district’s chronic truancy rate was 65% for the 2020-21 school year, according to district data presented to school board members at their Sept. 26 meeting.
This means that 65% of students in the district missed two or more days of school per month during the 2020-21 school year.
The statistics were presented as part of a comprehensive student district attendance presentation.
Chronic absenteeism, according to the Ohio Department of Education, is achieved when a student misses 10% or more hours during a school year, or the equivalent of 18 school days, excused or not.
Missing that much school can have devastating effects on a student’s academic performance, according to the US Department of Education:
• Kindergarten to Grade 2 students are much less likely to read at the Grade 3 level when they are in Grade 3. Students who fall behind in reading at this level are four times more likely to drop out of high school than students who read at third-grade level.
• A Utah study of students in grades 8-12 found that students who experience a year of chronic absenteeism are seven times more likely to drop out of high school than students who attend regularly.
• Ultimately, dropping out of high school portends future problems ranging from poverty to health problems to involvement with the criminal justice system.
“We need to educate the public about the important facts of coming to school,” said Lorain Assistant Superintendent of Schools Michael Scott.
Scott reported that sharing the facts would help increase attendance.
District officials also pointed out that students who miss 7.9 days of school or fewer per year are more likely to score proficient, accelerated, or advanced on state reading and math tests.
Students who miss 11.4 or more are much more likely to score in the limited and baseline range, according to 2012-16 district testing data
For some people, missing two days of school a month may not seem like much, Scott said.
“But it adds up,” said Scott, a former English teacher and principal. “And we want our students to be here every day for a myriad of reasons.
“But most importantly, for the continuity of education. Missing a day, there is an element of catching up.
Objective to reduce absenteeism
The district has set a goal to reduce its chronic absenteeism rate to 20% by 2025, said Ross May, assistant superintendent for strategic planning, data and processes for Lorain Schools.
“It’s a lofty goal, but we believe we can get there,” Lorain Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham told the council, while noting that in 2015-16, the chronic absenteeism rate in the district was 20%.
Achieving that goal isn’t just on a wish list, Graham said.
There will be practical consequences if the goal is not achieved, the main one being that the district would remain under state control, he said.
The district has worked with the state on a strategic plan to get out of state control, and there are certain criteria the district must meet.
One of those benchmarks will be chronic absenteeism, said Ross, who noted it was part of the district’s annual state report card.
Student attendance records over the past two years have been “pretty lousy”, he said.
But he also said the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to low school attendance and school officials are urging students and staff to stay away from buildings if they feel sick.
“We have to recognize that for the past two years we have told our families and staff if they suspect an illness, to stay home,” May said.
The district has created an attendance czar in Jeff Keruski, whose official title, according to the district’s website, is executive director of family and community relations.
Keruski continuously monitors attendance data for the district and meets regularly with school administrators on the subject.
Students who miss an excessive amount of school are quickly tracked and a plan to get them back to class is created.
This includes school officials calling parents and making home visits.
“When a student reaches a certain threshold, we sit down and discuss what interventions we need to support,” Keruski said. “How are we going to get this child to school?”
“What are the obstacles affecting this child? We involve the family, because they will tell us precisely what the obstacles are, and that is how we connect.
To keep students in school, the district is working hard to improve the culture in the buildings, making it a place where students want to be, Scott said.
“If that’s where you want to be, you’re more likely to come,” he said.
To do this, the district uses in part a strategy called Positive behavior and interventions and supportsor PBIS.
Part of Positive Behavior and Interventions and Supports, is an evidence-based, three-tier framework to support students’ behavioral, academic, social, emotional, and mental health,” according to its website.
It involves public recognition of students when they do something good.
This mostly comes in the form of desktop referrals.
If a student, for example, is found by a staff member doing something exceptional, such as speaking up on behalf of a student being bullied by another student, that student receives a recommendation from the office, and then is recognized school-wide for his efforts. .
Positive behavior and interventions and supports encourage positive behavior through recognition, which in turn creates a more positive culture in the building.
A better culture in buildings will steadily bring more students to school because they’ll want to be there, which is something school officials are counting on, according to Positive Behavior and Interventions and Supports.
But district officials know that improving school culture and student numbers will be a process, and they will need buy-in not only from students, but also from family and community members. , Scott said.
“It’s not just a school problem, we’re not going to solve it alone,” he said.