TAHOE/TRUCKEE — While efforts to combat chronic absenteeism in area schools have resulted in only a slight decrease district-wide, certain campuses have seen significant progress.
“I would love to go … and say given all the efforts that we’ve changed dramatically, but as a district we’ve improved it by 1 percent,” Rob Leri, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District superintendent, told trustees at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
For the 2011-12 school year, 15 percent of the student body (555 students) was chronically absent, while 518 students (14 percent) were in 2012-13.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student being absent 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason.
Within TTUSD, that translates to 18 or more missed days of school for illness, excused or unexcused absences, a non-school activity, incomplete independent study work, an in-house suspension, a suspension, discipline, a cut and/or an unverified absence.
The three schools that showed a significant decrease in chronic absenteeism in 2012-13 were Sierra Continuation High, with a 16 percent reduction (8 students); North Tahoe High School (10 percent, 26 students); and Glenshire Elementary (4 percent, 25 students).
Truckee High School also saw a 1 percent decrease (14 students).
Some initiatives the district implemented last year to help reduce chronic absenteeism include:
A messaging campaign to stress the importance of students attending school at school-wide events and publications.
Increased regular calls home — both personal and automated — when a student is absent.
Increased and regular use of attendance letters, several with personal notes from the school’s principal.
Implementation of School Attendance Review Teams to intervene with students prior to becoming chronically absent or truant.
Incentive programs, both tangible incentives or recognitions, at certain schools.
House checks by community liaisons, school resource officers or school personnel on students who are on the verge of being chronically absent.
“One of the things we repeatedly asked principals who have been responsible in implementing this, is what do you believe has been most effective?” said Leri.”…There is no one thing on the list that they would stop doing.”
Some schools saw an increase in chronic absenteeism in 2012-13, however: North Tahoe School, with a 4 percent jump (8 students); Tahoe Lake Elementary (1 percent, 16 students); Alder Creek Middle (1 percent, 6 students); and Donner Trail Elementary (1 percent, 0 students).
For Donner Trail, five students each of the past two years have been chronically absent; it’s a 1 percent increase, however, due to the school having a larger enrollment in 2012-13.
Those increases were due in part to an uptick in illness and the miscounting of some independent study students, Leri said.
“Some of the independent long-term contracts aren’t being cleared as regularly as they should, so we actually have some inflation in here that we’ve identified,” he explained.
Cold Stream Alternative was not included in the analysis due to alternative attendance recording methods, according to TTUSD.
Major reasons cited for local-school absenteeism include illness and family trips.
Addressing chronic absenteeism is part of Tahoe/Truckee’s All America City grade-level reading action plan to ensure more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
“We, again, commit to this as a long-term goal,” Leri said.