SBE to set attendance mark for federal reporting

SBE to set attendance mark for federal reporting

(Calif.) Elementary and middle schools would be expected to maintain an average student attendance rate of 93 percent for federal accountability purposes, under a plan set to come before the California State Board of Education next week.

Staff is also recommending the board consider using chronic absenteeism rates as an indicator of school success in its own accountability system – currently under development.

A memo out this week from the California Department of Education said that “the impact of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and dropout rates, and its correlation with attendance data suggest that chronic absenteeism would be a good indicator in the new multiple measures accountability system.”

The action follows adoption earlier this year of several amendments to the state’s federally-required accountability plan, one of which was using attendance data to replace California’s Academic Performance Index as an indicator of Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Amendments to the plan, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, are being made even as Congress is considering a rewrite of the federal education law that would return broad authority over accountability reporting to the states. The CDE staff notes, for instance, that 2015 could be the last year the agency is required to produce the AYP report if NCLB is reauthorized this fall.

California – one of only six states in the nation not granted a waiver from meeting the performance mandates set out in NCLB – has gone its own way, refusing to report test scores not aligned to current curriculum and negotiating with federal officials on alternate methods for accountability.

The state board in January approved seven amendments to the so-called Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook, including replacing the test score-based API. That move effectively gave students and teachers another year to adjust to the new content standards without having to worry about performance requirements.

While statewide testing is a part of the plan being worked out between state and federal officials, according to CDE, an additional indicator is still needed.

For K-8 schools, that indicator would be average daily attendance. For high schools, the indicator would be graduation rates.

The CDE does not currently collect attendance data that would allow for calculation of a chronic absenteeism rate. According to the staff memo, it is “developing a plan to collect the necessary attendance data through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS).”

The timeline calls for the data to be available in 2016–17.

The CDE in May had proposed that the state board set the attendance benchmark at 90 percent for both elementary and middle schools, based on “the most frequent target set by other states using attendance rates as an additional indicator for AYP” but members wanted to see more research and data supporting that standard.

 “This recommendation aligns with the California research that indicates schools with ADA rates below 93 percent are more likely to have high concentration of absenteeism,” staff wrote.

In addition, they pointed out, “The research regarding the impact of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and dropout rates, and its correlation with attendance data suggest that chronic absenteeism would be a good indicator in the new multiple measures accountability system.”

Use of attendance as a federal performance indicator has some precedence. According to a memo from the CDE, 12 states have received federal approval to use attendance as one of the measures.

Although California is one of only a handful of states that does not collect student attendance data from its schools, districts are required to collect and report rates of attendance and absenteeism as part of their Local Control Accountability Plans – the state’s new mechanism for how schools will communicate a wide range of performance measures.