State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and counselors from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District visited homes of families today whose students were identified as being chronically absent.
These visits are one of many outreach efforts, which also include online guidance and webinars, taken on by Thurmond and the California Department of Education to combat the serious issue of chronic absenteeism, defined as missing at least 10 percent of the instructional days that a student was enrolled to attend school.
Thurmond, who worked for a community-based program that focused on reducing chronic absenteeism prior to serving in the California State Assembly, has made this issue a priority of his administration and has started setting up visits to school districts to volunteer directly on outreach efforts.
“We have to recognize this has been a challenging two years, likely the toughest time these students will face in their lifetime,” Thurmond said. “We have seen serious issues around attendance affect every area throughout our state over the past year. Now it’s important we do everything in our power to get those students back in the classroom.”
A longtime advocate of programs to improve attendance, Thurmond championed legislation in 2022 that has resulted in billions of additional dollars that schools can use for a variety of programs, including improving chronic absenteeism. This includes a 13 percent increase in the local control funding formula and a nearly $8 billion discretionary grant that the state has provided for school districts to use for programs to support learning recovery.
The CDE sent out guidance this week to provide resources and best practices to school districts on ways to counter chronic absenteeism. In addition, the CDE in partnership with the organization Attendance Works is launching a series of six webinars to help schools and districts take steps to reduce chronic absenteeism. This series of discussions will explore how reducing chronic absence can be woven into a key area of existing work. It will include the voices of practitioners offering concrete examples of how they combat chronic absence in their own schools and communities. The first webinar, “Rising to the Challenge,” will take place on Wednesday, January 18 at 11 a.m. The webinar series will feature local educational agencies (LEAs) that will provide examples of programs they have used to reduce chronic absenteeism, such as using peer support student ambassadors to help other students improve attendance and the Expanded Learning Programs in which schools add time to the calendar to help students who were chronically absent.
A few examples of school districts that are actively combatting chronic absenteeism with their own resources are the Los Angeles Unified School District, Santa Ana USD, Lodi USD, San Bernardino USD, and Berkeley USD, which increased its counseling support and wellness centers to address student mental health concerns and hired additional staff on special assignment to coordinate social–emotional supports and curriculum.
“Absenteeism has been serious during the pandemic and beyond and has taken a great toll on many students,” Thurmond said. “As we move on from the pandemic, we continue to see an increase in chronic absenteeism in California and across the nation. We will continue to work with districts to find solutions to counter chronic absenteeism.”
For more information on Thurmond’s and the CDE’s efforts to counter chronic absenteeism, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.