Last week, we hosted our second Chronic Absence Working Session. The convening brought together more than 40 people representing 21 different schools and organizations. The slides from the session are available here. In the interest of time, we were only able to get through slide 15, however, we plan to follow up specifically on the power of Empathy Interviews soon.
Early intervention can be helpful in reducing chronic absenteesim and promoting attendance. To this end, school team’s began the session by looking at their attendance data from the first weeks of school. With this data in hand, school teams reflected on the touchpoints they have in place for the students that have been absent.
Next we discussed how “nudging” families can be a relatively low-cost,impactful whole-school strategy for reducing absences. Each school team then spent time planning how they can better “nudge” families to help improve attendance.
Feedback from the session was very positive so please stay tuned as we determine when we maybe be able to host another session.
It’s hard to believe it’s already back to school season – where did the summer go? As thousands of kids return to school, or in my daughter’s case enter school for the first time, I’d like highlight the importance of attendance.
It turns out that showing up to school helps kids learn. Shocking, I know right. Of course, we can’t expect every kid to earn that perfect attendance award. As a parent of a three-year old and five-year old, I’m well aware that kids get sick, oh so very sick.
For California, chronic absence is kind of a big issue. Specifically, 11 percent of kids in California were chronically absent during the 2017-18 school year (data for the 2018-19 school year is not yet publicly available). For context, that’s about 700,000 students, or more than the total population of Wyoming or Vermont. For California’s African-American kids, the percentage was nearly twice as high at 20 percent.
The story in Oakland is even bleaker. In the 2018-18 school year, the overall chronic absence rate was 16 percent and for African-American students it was 25 percent. In other words, 1 out every 4 African-American kids in Oakland missed at least 10% of school days. Wait, what? I can’t believe I just typed that sentenced. And these kids aren’t just missing time to learn, but our schools are losing out on much needed funding.
The good news is that there are Oakland schools doing great work to reduce chronic absence and improve overall attendance. In the Spring, I chatted with school leaders at Lazear Charter Academy (TK-8), LIFE Academy (6-12), and Roosevelt Middle School (6-8) to learn how each school is working to reduce chronic absence. Here is what I learned.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: It was not surprising to learn that all these schools have a dedicated team with a regular meeting schedule to support student attendance. It is almost too obvious that the more teachers and staff members who know what is going on, the more students and families can get support and issues can get addressed. The composition of the teams and the meeting frequently differs slightly across the schools, but each team has a consistent team with a regular schedule.
Data Driven: For all three schools, individual student data serves as the foundation for all attendance meetings. In particular, they pay specific attention to: students who are currently chronic absent and, students who are on the verge of becoming chronically absent. Looking at students who are close but not yet chronically absent is critical. It will be harder to help students catch up if they have already crossed that chronic absence threshold. An eye to prevention can go a long way.
Engaging Families is Key: All three schools stress the importance of one-on-one communication with families from a person who has a strong relationship with the student. One of the school leaders described the ideal communicator as a “warm demander” or someone who can hold meaningful relationships with families and at the same time hold them to high expectations. I am sure that you can think of someone in your life who can play this role. Sometimes we all need a watchful eye to help us do what we know we need to.
Celebrating Success: Positive reinforcement is a key lever for attendance. Each school has a public process for acknowledging kids that are meeting attendance expectations. Celebrations do not always have to focus on perfect attendance. It is also important to highlight kids that have improved their attendance. Recognizing effort when it comes to attendance is key – we need to show students and families that we see their work and improvement.
EFFECTIVE SCHOOL PRACTICES TO SUPPORT THE WHOLE CHILD: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s new Request for Applications: Effective School Practices to Support the Whole Child, seeks US-based teams of schools, support organizations and/or researchers who want to apply the science of learning and human development to improve existing school-based practices that develop self-direction and curiosity, specifically in adolescents (ages 11-18 years old). Participate in an informational webinar August 13 1-2PM ET, 10-11PT to learn more. Click here to register. Closes September 19, 2019.
COMMUNITY CONVENINGS ON SEL AND EQUITY: Through the 2019 Regional SEL Convening grants, NoVo Foundation and EdFirst will support district and school communities to create convenings that build educators’ and other adults’ capacity to meet students’ social, emotional and academic needs with an equity lens. Two to four grants of $50,000 to $100,000 each will be awarded to districts, charters and their partners to design and host a convening in their region by the end of the 2020 calendar year. Letter of intent (LOI) materials can be found here. Listen to informational webinars: (7/29 recording here; 7/30 recording here and view this slide deck. Virtual office hours scheduled in August (via Zoom, Thursdays, 3-5:00 ET). The deadline for the the LOI is Friday, September 6.
Up until recently this was not an easy question to answer for a city in California (several other states make this data publicly available). The data has been available to individual schools and districts who seek it out, but the state has not prioritized releasing college-going data. Fortunately, for the the first time, California has publicly released college-going data. This is a great first step toward a statewide data system that can track student outcomes from pre-k through college.
What exactly is this data? College-going data is a combination of data from CALPADS, California’s student data system, and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), an organization that collects data from colleges across the country. CALPADS data tells us which kids graduate from high school. This data can then be matched with college enrollment data from NSC to tell us which high school graduates ultimately make it into college.
What are the key takeaways?
Oakland’s college-going rates are lower than the state and the county
Oakland is 6 points behind the state and and 13 points behind the county
The range in college-going rates across Oakland is wide.
Eleven schools sent more than 70% of students their graduates to college
Eleven schools sent 50% or less of their graduates to college
Girls are outpacing boys
Girls have higher college-going rates in Oakland, Alameda County, and California
The trend continues in most individual schools as well with gaps as large as 36 points
One hypothesis for this difference is that students from immigrant families are more likely to opt out of the NSC collection for fear of revealing their immigration status. To be clear, NSC does not collect information on immigration and status, but the fear from families and students still exists. Since California is home to a large immigrant population, there is a larger proportion of students attending California colleges that have decided to opt out of the NSC data collection. While the data set is not exhaustive, this is the best available data set for college-going data and can still provide valuable insights for our community.
What’s next? Join us on Sept 24 at our second College Data Study session where we will dive deeper into college data with stakeholders from across Oakland.
It’s raining outside on a recent weekday morning, so ASCEND second grade teacher Kate Snyder’s class is having recess indoors, playing board games as they huddle around short-leg tables. The class just finished a literacy block, a time normally reserved for phonics, reading and other comprehension strategies. But it’s end-of-the-year evaluation time and Snyder and the students have been checking in on progress.
As the teacher and students would go through each student’s data, Snyder is especially impressed with the growth her students are displaying. Many have made drastic improvements in their reading ability. Some students who started the year with holes in their ability to recognize letters and sounds are now talking about what they’re reading, learning, thinking, and wondering.
“It’s exciting,” Snyder says. “It makes me proud. I know the kids feel pumped, and it’s exciting to hear them talk about their data and see how much they’ve grown. They know their reading targets and have strategies, and have made these enormous leaps. It’s pretty incredible, and they’re pumped about it, too.”
Jaden, an 8-year-old student in Snyder’s class, is one such student who has made a lot of progress this year.
“I used to get stuck on each word,” he says, “Now when I’m reading I can say the word the proper way. It makes me feel good and happy that I learned.”
All around ASCEND, there is much growth to celebrate. The school was recently recognized by the CORE Districts as a school that is having “the highest impact on student achievement — (a) school where students are consistently making academic gains faster than similar students at similar schools.” Four High Impact Badges are available, and ASCEND was recognized with all four: for 1 year of math growth, 3 years of math growth, 1 year of English language arts growth, and 3 years of English language arts growth.
The CORE growth model is especially useful because it reveals the impact of a school’s pedagogy, isolating out the progress a student makes compared to peers with similar demographics, similar prior test scores, and attending similar schools. The model is able to measure growth for all students whether they are below, at, or above standard.
ASCEND Principal Morgan Alconcher said the four badges that show growth in multiple areas prove it’s not a particular curriculum or one area of focus that is driving the student growth at the school; rather the community shares in the common vision that students cultivate personal agency and learn to forge their own paths through an approach that includes arts integration and a focus on social-emotional growth
“For us, we have tried to make sure our program represents our vision,” Alconcher says, “and we have been moving bit by bit, with small actions. Everything we do is calibrated to that, and everyone is aware of where we’re headed. Sometimes schools just focus on one area, but at what cost?”
“Our dashboards and data points are the benchmarks and progress monitoring to see if we’re on track,” she later says. “Is our theory of action working and how are we tending to that?”
What it means to be a thriving student at ASCEND goes much deeper than just getting good grades, she adds, mentioning goal setting, being aware of yourself and what you need, having the ability to advocate for yourself, exploring passions, and figuring out how to make decisions. “We have to set the conditions for that,” she says. “We very much believe in learning by doing and see ourselves as designers and facilitators of learning experiences.”
Authentic student agency is important at ASCEND, Assistant Principal Jeffrey Embleton says. “It’s asking students what they want to do, how they want to learn. It can’t be a worksheet, it has to be something that really taps into their passions and lights fires.”
When it comes to sharing data with the community and keeping them informed of progress, the CORE growth model is especially useful, Alconcher says. “I often put these data points down with our vision and theory of action so parents can see them together,” she says.
“We have not hit our targets, there is still a long way to go. But we have been very committed to a path and worked really hard to get there.”
For the ASCEND community, the growth comes from a focus on continuous improvement.
“Something that we have done well that has allowed us to grow over consecutive years is we have stayed that course,” Alconcher says. “We’re not picking one component of the program to hit out of the park, and once that’s good we’ll focus somewhere else. We chose the strategy of ‘let’s stay anchored in building out our model towards our vision.’ Our goal is to get better at what we do, to beat ourselves from last year.”
One week ago, we hosted a Chronic Absence Working Session for that brought together 37 people from 16 different schools and organizations across Oakland. The slides from the session are available here. As a reminder, a student is considered chronically absent if they are absent (excused or unexcused) for 10% or more of the days for which they are enrolled. So for a typical 180 day school calendar, a student would need to miss at least 18 days (or about 3 1/2 weeks) of school in order to be considered chronically absent.
One of the focuses of the working session was for each school to create a group of current students that are just above or just below the chronically absent threshold. It’s likely that combination of tier-1 (whole-school) and tier-2 (targeted) attendance strategies (see image below) can be used to help improve attendance next year for this group of students. A sample data spreadsheet for identifying an attendance intervention group is available here.
As a next step, we would encourage all school teams to review qualitative data to better understand their quantitative attendance data. One particularly useful method for obtaining qualitative attendance data is conducting empathy interviews with students and families to learn more about attendance patterns. An empathy interview is an open-ended interview structure that allows you to get a deeper understanding of why a student may be absent. You need not interview every student – even a handful of interviews can provide valuable information.
After analyzing data, school teams brainstormed potential tier-1 and tier-2 strategies to employ at their school based on the following categories: A) Engaging Students and Families, B) Recognizing Good and Improved Attendance, C) Monitoring and Attendance Data and Practice, and D) Providing Personalized Early Outreach. The results of the brainstorming session are available here.
The next Chronic Absence Working Session will take place on Thursday, 9/12/19. You can RSVP here: bit.ly/oakcore091219. In the meantime, please make sure to check out Attendance Works for more resources related to attendance. You can check out his page to learn about past and future webinars related to attendance.
The Education Trust-West and CORE have partnered to publicly recognize schools throughout California that are supporting students to achieve high academic growth. At these high-growth schools, students are making academic gains faster than similar students at similar schools throughout the California. Right here in Oakland we have 43 high growth schools. This is a great accomplishment for school staff and students!
In future posts, we will dive into more detail about CORE’s student growth model and how it provides a different perspective from data available on the California School Dashboard.
Click here to view the complete list of high growth schools across California. Additionally, high growth schools will be acknowledged on the Ed Equity Navigator, a soon-to-be-released website that will present California education data through an equity lens.
On April 11 we hosted the first of four College Data Study Sessions to examine college matriculation, persistence, and degree completion data for Oakland students. During the kick-off event, stakeholders representing 20 different schools and organizations from across Oakland collaborated to review college data and brainstorm how Oakland can use this data as a community. For those that were unable to attend, the agenda and slide deck are available here.
During the session, we reviewed anonymous college matriculation and persistence data for Oakland schools made available from the CORE Data Collaborative. In the spirit of using data as a flashlight, we started with reviewing anonymous data, however, over time as we learn and build trust we plan to make school-level data available publicly. As we analyzed this data we considered the following questions:
Not surprisingly, the data generated more questions than answers. We hope to address many of these questions in future study sessions.
To inspire our work for future sessions, we also reviewed several college data artifacts from other communities. From these artifacts, we hope to learn how we can use college data to support Oakland students to and through college. Here are the artifacts that we investigated:
I look forward to working with community members to craft the agenda for our next session on Tuesday, 9/24, Noon – 2pm (RSVP HERE). Lunch will be served and location is to be determined.
While we won’t be convening as group again until September, Lighthouse Community Public Schools will be hosting several webinars highlighting best practices for College and Career readiness in the next few weeks. Sign up here.
Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workforce: Adding a CTE Pathway to a Small School (April 25, 2019 @ 9:15 – 10:00am PDT)
College and Career Best Practices (April 25, 2019 @ 10:15 – 11:00am PDT)
Attend to the Language of the Standards: Planning for Mastery and Student Supports (April 25 @ 1 – 2:15pm PDT)
Chronic absence is a key barrier to achievement for many students in Oakland and other undeserved communities. In this working session we will share tools and protocols for school teams to analyze the current year’s chronic absence data. Using this information, school teams will identify steps that can be taken between now and the beginning of the 19-20 school year to help improve overall attendance and decrease chronic absence.
The Chronic Absence Working Session will take place on Thursday, 5/9, 10am – Noon (lunch will be served) at Oakland International High School (4521 Webster St). The school is about about a 10-15min walk from the MacArthur BART station and several AC Transit bus stops. Street parking is also available nearby. RSVP HERE to attend.
Which schools can participate? Any Oakland public school can participate. The agenda will be focused on supporting schools that are still developing their practices around reducing chronic absence. Schools with more developed practices are more than welcome to participate and share their systems with other schools.
Who should attend from my school? Participating schools are asked to bring at least 2 people but not more than 4 people. Schools are encouraged to bring members of your your attendance team, which will vary from school to school. Participants could include: principal or assistant principal, family engagement coordinator, attendance clerk, operations manager, or other staff members.
What do I need to bring with me? In order to fully benefit from this working session, you will need to bring up-to-date, student-level chronic absence data. This information can generally be exported from your student information system (Aeries, PowerSchool, Illuminate, etc.). If you need assistance accessing this data, please contact Jonathon Stewart (email@example.com).
When new students arrive on Day 1 of a new school year, they’re about the same age as their classmates but have various levels of proficiency. Everyone knows this. Every student is unique and has different circumstances that help determine where they are in school. But when it comes time for the state test, there is a bar for proficiency: are students reaching the state standards, or are they not?
We also know many students who have not reached the state’s standard worked incredibly hard and may have made huge gains over the course of a school year. Their educators tapped into something that works. Their schools, serving a large percentage of high-needs students, may be on to something.
This is where the new “Academic Growth” indicator for the CORE Data Collaborative can be especially useful: it gives as clear a picture as we have of the impact of the teaching at a school. Who the students are and the schools they attend matters less. Only how much progress they have made compared to their peers.
“I love the growth point because it compares our progress to the progress made by similar students in similar schools,” Urban Montessori Head of School Krishna Feeney says. “That is something that is easier to digest for families. It’s like, ‘We were here and this is how much we’ve grown in each of these areas compared to similar students in similar schools.’ And that is something our community is asking for.”
Urban Montessori is a locally grown Oakland public school and one of 27 Oakland charter schools that participate in the CORE Data Collaborative (all 87 district-run schools participate). CORE began in 2010 when California’s large, urban school districts came together around new academic standards and training for teachers and administrators.
The collaborative, which includes the school districts of Oakland, Fresno, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Ana, secured a waiver from No Child Left Behind regulations in 2013 to evaluate schools on more than just test scores.
The more holistic way schools are evaluated through CORE includes data on student-level academic growth, high school readiness, students’ social-emotional skills and schools’ culture-climate (which is taken through surveys administered to students, teachers and families). CORE data also includes traditional measures of test scores, graduation rates and absenteeism also found in the Oakland Public School Report Card and California School Dashboard. CORE then provides an index of similar schools in terms of proficiency and growth for which to compare.
The kind of data CORE provides is especially useful for a school like Urban Montessori which uses a non-traditional school model. For example, Montessori philosophy stresses the importance of three-year cycles (same classroom environment for three years rather than one), which doesn’t exactly line up with California’s standardized test-every-year system.
Feeney said an especially exciting piece of the CORE data for the Urban school community was seeing a huge jump in the growth data for its new middle school students (this is the first year Urban has had an 8th grade class). The students now in middle school began at Urban on Day 1 of the school and have been through two three-year cycles: 1st-3rd grade and of 4th-6th grade.
“It’s making us wonder and hope — we don’t have enough data yet to say it outright — once we’re hitting middle school, it’s all falling into place,” Feeney says. “Those kids who are now in middle school have been here since Year 1, and they’re able to bring it together and demonstrate that on a state test even better than our younger students.”
CORE data is shared with school administrators and is not publically-available, so it’s up to Feeney and Urban staff to make sure the school community is aware of what this data is saying. Feeney has shared the data with the board, presenting charts, graphs and trends to the board’s academic committee and full board. Part of that is explaining the growth model and how it’s different from “status” and “change.”
“Our work is to be asking questions and hold the school accountable for learning, bringing back lessons and strategies that are working,” says Greg Klein, the Urban Montessori Board Chairperson. “As a board member, we care about a lot of data points: we want to know the status and percent of students who got all the way to grade level standards, and we want to know that broken down by subgroup. We also want to know how that has changed year over year. And the third part of understanding how the school is doing is growth.”
Growth, Klein says, is especially important. “The way that I think about growth is as a leading indicator,” he says. “Multiple years of high, above-average growth is ultimately going to move the needle on percent proficient.”
Feeney says that because the data is so new, the school is figuring out how best to use it. “It’s really useful and interesting for me to go through and compare ourselves to other similar schools,” she says, “and it’s on my radar to find ways to connect and figure out what they’re doing and how they’re using the data.” She would like to empower educators and the school community to interact with the data, too.
“For me, I’m continuing to figure out how to use the information to share with the community something that shows where we started and where we’re going,” she says.