PLEASANT HILL, Calif. – With the new school year underway across Contra Costa County, it’s more important than ever that our students be in class every day – ready to learn.
Missing too much school has long-term, negative effects on students and schools, such as lower achievement and graduation rates. That is why four countywide agencies have come together for the fifth year in a row to recognize September as National Attendance Awareness Month and join forces to reduce truancy and chronic absenteeism through the county’s awareness campaign, titled: Every School Day Counts: Attend today, Achieve for a Lifetime!
In a joint letter, signed by Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, Contra Costa County Chief of Probation Todd Billeci, and Contra Costa County Presiding Juvenile Judge the Honorable Rebecca Hardie, the quartet pledge their agencies’ support of this crucial campaign. In addition, the county’s Board of Education supports this effort through its Attendance Proclamation.
“This campaign is designed to provide resources to schools that engage school communities and boost student attendance as soon as children enter school,” says Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata. “With all of our students now back in class, there’s no better time to have these important discussions about how we get our children to class every day, ready to learn. Their futures depend on it.”
Sakata encourages Contra Costa County teachers, principals, and parents to review the Attendance Awareness web page, located on the Contra Costa County of Education’s website. The page is filled with useful resources for the campaign, including school-district tool kits, monthly themes, helpful videos, links to beneficial webinars, and much more.
According to Attendance Works, and adopted by the California Department of Education, chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. That’s the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance, research shows. Nationally, 5 million to 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school from excused and unexcused absences every year. Starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower 3rd grade reading scores. By middle school it’s a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school.
Chronic absence disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools. This is not just a matter of truancy. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation, or housing moves — barriers that city agencies and community partners can help families address.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in recognition of September as Attendance Awareness Month, said school districts, public agencies, community groups, students, and their families must work together to combat chronic absenteeism.
“Students aren’t learning if they are not in class. Cohesive partnerships, intervention strategies, and solid support services create attendance teams that are armed with the necessary tools to identify and help students struggling with attendance problems,” said Torlakson. “By combining resources and working together, school attendance administrators, parents, and community organizations can build systems to reduce chronic absenteeism rates that are positive and effective, not negative and punitive.”