The Long Beach Unified School District is one of 11 honorees designated as models of attendance improvement and dropout prevention by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the State School Attendance Review Board, or SARB.
Local and county SARBs are created by school districts and county offices of education to identify and assist students with attendance problems that may be due to chronic illness, truancy, transportation problems, disabilities, or behavioral health issues. Students and families are referred for SARB hearings when a school has tried and failed to resolve attendance or behavior problems.
Torlakson said a more progressive, data- driven approach to absenteeism by award- winning local and county SARBs provides examples that other school districts can follow to keep students in the classroom.
"In California, we have a group of exceptional SARBs using data-driven strategies to reduce their chronic absenteeism rates, improve overall attendance, and reduce dropout rates," said Torlakson. "You can have the best facilities, the best teachers and the best curriculum in the world, but none of that matters if students are not in school."
The Model SARB award recognizes excellence in community collaboration and measuring and reporting outcomes for chronic absenteeism and overall district attendance.
LBUSD reported a significant reduction in the number of chronically absent students, or those who miss more than 10 percent of the school year. During the 2012-13 school year, the chronic absence rate was 19.8 percent. This year the rate has dropped to 10 percent. The school district’s overall attendance rate is 96.17 percent this school year, up from 96.01 percent last school year and 95.5 percent during the 2012-13 school year.
School district staff have made a concerted effort to work more closely with families who face challenges such as transportation barriers, or situations in which older siblings are kept home to care for younger ones, said Erin Simon, school support services director. Some parents believe it’s their right to decide whether to bring their children to school.
“We’re committed to eliminating barriers so that students can attend school every second of every period, every day,” Simon said.
LBUSD works with families to explain that students with high truancy rates have a greater chance of dropping out. Parents of troubled teens learn strategies to prevent their children from skipping school. Such parents may meet with Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, who develops contracts with families to curb chronic absenteeism. His aim is to keep cases out of court while improving student attendance and behavior.