L.A. County Education Council adopts Multi-Agency Approach to Address Student Attendance
The Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council (ECC) today adopted a report from the School Attendance Task Force (SATF) urging a new vision and improved coordination among agencies who work with students to address attendance issues, with an increased emphasis on identifying the specific causes of absences and connecting pupils appropriate to services to address the issue. Convened by Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash in September 2010, the SATF has studied the problem of low student attendance and truancy in Los Angeles County for the last year and half.
"This report reflects the ongoing consistent and committed efforts of the Task Force members to increase school attendance and enhance the educational experience of our children, improving the quality of their lives and, in turn, the quality of life for others in our communities," said Judge Nash. "School attendance is often a complex issue, and there is no magic pill to cure its deficiencies, but this report reflects a positive start to improvement."
SATF members reviewed a variety of information on programs currently used in Los Angeles and around the country, reviewed effectiveness of current approaches, and conducted a comprehensive review of published data on effective programs for improving attendance and reducing truancy. The report includes a broad set of recommendations to align current practices more closely with approaches that research has demonstrated to be effective.
Key recommendations include:
- Every school district should make attendance a must-respond-to indicator and adopt a student attendance program that provides broad interventions for all students, more targeted interventions for students who meet the criteria for being at risk for poor attendance, and substantial interventions for students with intensive needs;
- Punitive approaches, including criminal charges, should be used only as a last resort to address attendance issues and only after multiple interventions have failed, because research shows that such methods have little impact and, in fact, actually increase the likelihood of school push-out and drop-out; and
- Youth-serving agencies should partner early and often with families and community-based organizations to understand the barriers to student attendance and maximize resources available to meet student needs.
The SATF represents a unique collaboration across governmental and community agencies in Los Angeles County, with members from public school districts, charter schools, supervising judicial officers, city governments, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Los Angeles Probation Department, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, defense attorneys, and numerous community- and faith-based organizations that work with students, parents, and families. The report was adopted unanimously by SATF members.
"This report highlights the critical importance of prioritizing attendance, monitoring and intervening early, and working together to develop a range of services and referrals to address the many different causes of truancy and poor school attendance," said Richard Martinez, Superintendent of Pomona Unified School District.
The report also details important reforms that members of the SATF have already implemented, including new procedures for the Informal Juvenile and Traffic Court that handles daytime curfew and loitering citations, changes by the LAPD and Los Angeles School Police Department to enforcement procedures for daytime curfew ordinances, and a joint project between LAUSD and the City of Los Angeles to develop community centers that can provide comprehensive assessment, counseling, and referrals for students with attendance issues.
- These changes will result in significantly less daytime curfew citations and help to improve school attendance dramatically. It's time for leaders all across our country to focus on identifying the root causes of absences while at the same time providing every student with the support and services they need to stay in school," said Los Angeles City Councilmember Tony Cardenas, who has introduced a motion to amend the city's daytime curfew ordinance.
"The Los Angeles Police Department supports these recommendations and the recognition that addressing student attendance is first and foremost an issue where schools and communities should take the lead," said LASPD Chief Steve Zipperman. "Students should have the opportunity to access programs that will solve attendance problems before relying on police and the courts."
By adopting the report, each member agency of the ECC committed to implementing the recommendations. The ECC, which was established by the Board of Supervisors in November 2004 and charged with raising the educational achievement of foster and probation youth, includes leaders from school districts, county departments, the juvenile court, the county children's commission, advocacy and planning groups, community agencies, alumni youth and caregivers.
"We need students in school, every day, on time and ready to learn," said Mónica García, LAUSD Board President and Chair of the ECC. "The ECC and all of its partners bring resources, like this report, to help all of us focus on the path to 100% graduation."
SATF members have also committed to work together during 2012 on several initiatives, including developing technical assistance materials to assist school districts and other agencies that wish to adopt the recommendations, advocating for free bus passes for school-aged youth, and developing a county-wide public service announcement campaign that markets the importance of school attendance to students and families.