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This year, SCUSD launches our “Be HERE!” campaign to educate our families about chronic absence and the importance of good school attendance. When students are not at school, they are not learning what is being taught. Period. Students absent just 2 days per month, for any reason, are considered chronically absent. Research shows these students fall behind and have a difficult time ever catching up with their peers. Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten are often not reading proficiently in 3rd grade. Students not reading well by 3rd grade are 4x more likely to dropout of high school. That’s why we have to work together to get our kids to school every day and on time! This is a joint effort with our students, families, schools and our communities. Last year, SCUSD had a chronic absence rate of 15.1%. That’s nearly 5% higher than the state’s average of 10.8%! Our numbers are far bleaker for children of color and our most vulnerable children who are in foster care or homeless. We want ALL of our students to succeed in school and life and the only way to do that is to Be HERE!

In 2012, SCUSD partnered with UC Davis Center for Regional Change and Dr. Nancy Erbstein to begin to understand and address the causes of chronic absenteeism in our district. That research has served as a catalyst to launch the Be HERE Campaign. (https://regionalchange.ucdavis.edu/news/chronic-absence-sacramento-city-unified-school-district). This initiative is aimed at changing the culture around school attendance at every level of our community. This September marks the launch of Sac City’s Be HERE! Attendance Campaign with National Attendance Awareness Month (http://awareness.attendanceworks.org). For the entire month of September all schools in our district will have a goal of 98% attendance with events and celebrations aimed at educating students and families about the importance of regular school attendance. Students who go to school regularly, do better in school and life, and improving student attendance supports all of our schools. Raising one student’s attendance impacts the whole school, and other schools in the district. California public schools are funded according to Average Daily Attendance – the number of students in school each day, and for middle and high schools, by periods.

Why Chronic Absence Matters

(Information from Attendance Works)

Across the country, more than 7 million students are missing so many days of school that they are academically at risk. Chronic absence — missing 10 percent or more of school days due to absence for any reason—excused, unexcused absences and suspensions, can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school. Read here for more info: http://awareness.attendanceworks.org/wp-content/uploads/Research2016.pdf

Children living in poverty are two to three times more likely to be chronically absent—and face the most harm because their community lacks the resources to make up for the lost learning in school. Students from communities of color as well as those with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

This isn’t simply a matter of truancy or skipping school. In fact, many of these absences, especially among our youngest students, are excused. Often absences are tied to health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, and oral and mental health issues. Other barriers including lack of a nearby school bus, a safe route to school or food insecurity make it difficult to go to school every day. In many cases, chronic absence goes unnoticed because schools are counting how many students show up every day rather than examining how many and which students miss so much school that they are falling behind. (Used with permission of Attendance Works.)

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The challenge of improving attendance is to avoid making the incorrect assumption that chronically absent students or their parents simply do not care. By working together, all of us — schools, public officials, public agencies, civic organizations, businesses, philanthropic groups, families and students — can ensure all children can get to school every day so they have an opportunity to learn, flourish and realize their dreams. (Used with permission of Attendance Works.)

As members of the Sac City community, we all have an interest in seeing our youth succeed in school and in life. Each of us benefits when children thrive, and every one of us wants to see each student in our city attend school everyday, graduate from high school and go on to a successful college or career. Yet, too many of our students miss school too often and too many drop out and never graduate, limiting their chances for a successful future. Experience tells us that if our schools can work together with families as well as the community, we can make a difference in the lives of the children living here. Whether you are a sports coach, a local business owner, a librarian, a leader in the faith community or an outreach worker, you have a unique relationship with an opportunity to influence parents and students when it comes to going to school, every day and on time. Please partner with us in sending the message—loud and clear—that every day counts. If students attend today, they will achieve tomorrow! Contact the Be HERE office at 916.643.2136 to see how you can help address chronic absence in our community.