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Solutions to Chronic Absenteeism: An Evaluation of a Kindergarten Attendance Improvement Program in LAUSD


School absenteeism and truancy confront educators on a daily basis. While public school districts in the U.S. experience daily rates of absenteeism, in the Los Angeles Unified school District (LAUSD), over 26,000 students miss school each day, totaling over 130,500 student absences each week. Regardless of whether these absences are excused (e.g., illness or bereavement) or unexcused (lack of transportation, vacation extensions, etc.), when students are absent from school they miss out on valuable instructional time. Data reveal that children with chronic rates of absenteeism have a more difficult time keeping up with their peers academically, are less likely to pass future courses and graduate high school, and are susceptible to detrimental social influences such as gang violence, drug use, and teen pregnancy.

Nationally, 1 in 10 kindergartners are considered "chronically absent"; in LAUSD, 1 in 5 kindergartners is chronically absent, double the national rate. Further, for African- American kindergartners in LAUSD, the rate jumps to 1 in 3. In fact, kindergartners have the highest rates of chronic absence of all grade levels in the District. A growing body of research demonstrates that missing school in kindergarten highly correlates with poor student achievement in later grades however, yet very little is known about why our youngest students are missing so much school and what might be done to prevent excessive absence in the first place.

In 2012, LAUSD developed a pilot Attendance Improvement Plan (AIP) to reveal the underlying reasons for this 1 in 3 statistic. This study used that data to reveal which LAUSD schools saw increases in attendance and which failed to make those improvements. After selecting a sample from each of these groups, I interviewed Principals, Teachers, and Attendance Improvement Counselors (Counselors) from six schools to examine what factors contributed to improved school attendance and how these staff members implemented strategies and ideas for doing so. Results from the study reveal recommendations about how to improve kindergarten attendance rates for the 2013-2014 school year.

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