What you need to know about ESSA and Chronic Absenteeism

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)–a bipartisan measure that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our 50-year-old national education law meant to ensure equal opportunity for all students.

High school graduation rates are at historic highs, dropout rates are at historic lows, and more students are going to college than ever before–but there’s still much work to do to expand educational opportunity for all students. ESSA includes many provisions to help improve student outcomes and ensure success and continued progress for all students and schools. As the U.S. Department of Education states, the law:

 

  • Advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.
  • Requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
  • Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.
  • Helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators—consistent with our Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods.
  • Sustains and expands the Obama administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.
  • Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress, and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.

 

ESSA provisions focus heavily on ensuring that all students are college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school. As we know, chronic absenteeism has a major impact on dropout and graduation rates, and prevents many students from becoming college and career ready. ESSA requires states to report chronic absenteeism rates, and allows school districts to spend federal dollars on training to reduce absenteeism. ESSA also represents the first time that federal education law specifically mentions this measure of attendance; former iterations of the law (ESEA, No Child Left Behind) only included stipulations for truancy. Chronic absenteeism differs from truancy in that it tracks both excused and unexcused absences.

Chronic absence is a significant early warning indicator that a student is heading off track academically, and the education community has made significant strides to raise awareness of this issue. Thanks to the efforts of educators, school communities, parents, students, and education organizations and companies, support for attendance is both bipartisan and strong throughout the country.

Right now, 37 out of the 40 states that have submitted plans for implementing ESSA have included chronic absence as a measure on which they will report. ESSA’s inclusion of chronic absenteeism reflects that awareness of this issue is growing in Washington. Policy makers and legislators are beginning to understand that chronic absence is a key indicator for assessing school and student success. This progress is quite substantial, as policy is an essential component of enacting tangible, measurable change.

Kinvolved will continue to support our partner schools and districts in these states as they work to reduce absenteeism. Kinvolved strives to help districts elevate attendance by including families in education.

KiNVO, Kinvolved’s mobile and web app, enables K-12 school staff to access informative attendance data and to engage families through real-time, translated text messaging. Teachers and administrators can use the app to track period and daily attendance, send real-time SMS/email alerts to families, and record lost instructional minutes. Additionally, to help achieve our mission to elevate attendance, we offer Attendance Summits and Culture and Community Coaching. Our Attendance Summits align key community stakeholders, from districts and community-based organizations to mayor’s offices and government agencies, around common goals and strategies to fight chronic absence. Our Culture and Community Coaching for school and district teams promotes thoughtful implementation of research-backed attendance improvement strategies.

If you have any questions about Kinvolved, including the KiNVO app, our Professional Development, or Summits, don’t hesitate to reach out! Drop us a line at hello@kinvolved.com.

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