In an effort to align Caroline County Public School’s (CCPS) attendance policy with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) new chronic absenteeism requirement for accreditation, Caroline has established attendance teams at each school and has partnered with the Caroline County Department of Social Services to support families in ensuring that students come to school on time and ready to learn. The policy revision promotes a team approach to improving attendance in an effort to increase achievement, close performance gaps between student subgroups, and to reduce the dropout rate.
The VDOE chose to include chronic absenteeism as a non-academic indicator when judging school quality. Students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year — or approximately 18 days — for any reason will negatively impact his/her school’s accreditation rating. Chronic absenteeism incorporates all absences: excused, unexcused, and out of school suspensions. The focus on chronic absenteeism is to reduce the academic consequences of lost instructional time and to minimize absences before students miss so much school that they fall behind. It recognizes that students miss school for many understandable issues such as illness or homelessness for which a punitive response is not appropriate. However, what helps is working with families to share the importance of attendance and to remedy the underlying problems that lead to chronic absenteeism.
To address chronic absenteeism using a “Connect and Correct” strategy, CCPS has established attendance teams made up of student support specialists, counselors, teachers, social workers, administrators, attendance clerks, stakeholders from the department of social services, and central office staff. Attendance teams have weekly meetings to complete the following tasks:
• monitor rising absences (students who miss 3 or more days per month)
• contact families via phone and letter to alert them of attendance concerns
• contact home to inform parents if attendance meeting is needed (Student Support Specialists)
• hold attendance meetings as needed with the appropriate stakeholders at the table to support families
• make home visits if contact cannot be established by phone or letter
• initiate attendance incentive programs for students with high absence rates
• announce school-wide incentives and celebrate a culture of “It’s cool to be in school.”
Through heightened collaboration between division personnel and school attendance teams, CCPS experienced a significant reduction at each school in chronic absenteeism. The chart below shows the percentage of students at each school who missed more than 15 days in 2017 compared to 2018.
CCPS is excited about this reduction in chronic absenteeism and looks forward to our continued partnership with community agencies to foster excellence in attendance for all students who attend Caroline County Public Schools.