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At every board meeting, the Superintendent has the opportunity to share district-wide updates. Tonight, the Superintendent is reporting out an attendance update among other things, like enrollment, tech access, and the 2020-23 Strategic Plan.
The District is reporting an attendance rate of 94% for students in TK-8 grade and it drops down to 83% for high schoolers (grades 9-12). This means that only about 8 of 10 high school students are attending distance learning classes. You will also notice that the lowest rate of attendance is high school foster youth with a 69% attendance rate, meaning that only 7 of 10 high school foster youth students are attending distance learning classes. When we look into a deeper breakdown by grade level and other demographics (see slide 7 below), you’ll notice that the most vulnerable student populations like ELL, newcomers, SPED, unhoused and foster youth have lower attendance rates.
We applaud the District for transparently tracking and publicly sharing student attendance data during distance learning. Other districts have been tracking and publicly sharing this information since school buildings closed in March. This breakdown allows us to focus on some of the most marginalized sub-groups of students- those who likely have the least access to quality distance learning. Moving forward, it would be helpful to see attendance data broken down also for students in transitional grades, specific regions, and a school-by-school dashboard (see this example from Broward County, Florida) to help identify gaps across the city and ensure greater access.
The implications of low attendance are severe. Even before the pandemic, 14% of Oakland students were not completing high school. With the transition to distance learning, even more students run the risk of becoming disengaged and dropping out. Close attention should be paid to high school students, students in transitional grades, and students from traditionally marginalized groups to keep them connected to school and ensure they have access to high quality, engaging instruction — even at a distance.
Declining attendance is an alarming sign that students either lack access and/or are dissatisfied with the quality of distance learning and are disengaging as a result. We expect the District to continue to share attendance updates and clear steps for supporting and engaging students.