- The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is working to address chronic absenteeism in a state where about one in every six public school students misses at least 10% of the school year, a factor that is impacting student achievement and graduation rates, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
- Using the Every Day Matters campaign, the state education department is hoping to help identify and address as many barriers to attendance as possible, such as poverty, family mental and physical health, transportation issues, bullying and cultural barriers.
- The department is also funding additional coaches and support staff for roughly half of the school districts facing the biggest attendance issues and is offering online toolkits for educators and parents to help improve attendance. An earlier measure that is already in progress includes a pilot program that pairs school districts with local Native American tribes in seeking attendance solutions.
Oregon schools certainly aren't alone in facing chronic absenteeism among students. A report released this summer by Attendance Works showed that the percentage of schools nationwide in which at least 20% of students were chronically absent increased from 11% to 13% between 2013-14 and the 2015-16 academic years. The same report showed that 11% of schools in the nation reported at least 30% of students were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year. While the increasing numbers could largely be due to improved tracking systems, they're still important because absenteeism affects school performance and, ultimately, graduation rates in the many states.
According the recent numbers released by the ODE, that state has one of the worst records for absenteeism in the nation. Two factors contributing to those numbers could high poverty rates in rural regions and the large percentage of Native American tribes and communities whose cultural approaches and celebrations sometimes conflict with attendance. To address the challenges, the ODE established a Tribal Attendance Pilot Project, now in its second year, which is having a modest effect on increasing attendance rates for that population. The state is also exploring other strategies to deal with the issue.
An Oregon chronic absenteeism report released in 2017 offered several strategy recommendations to deal with the absenteeism issue that can be used by other states and school districts. These recommendations include increasing diversity in the workforce, offering more engaging curriculum content and courses, revising policies to address disparities in school discipline and increasing partnerships between school districts and community-based organizations.