Press Release Details
Press Release Message
San Francisco (September 7, 2023) - The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate the Attendance Awareness Campaign in September and has pledged focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year. SFUSD recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success, but far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism is described as missing 10% of the school year—or about 18 days— for any reason.
SFUSD is sharing resources and messages with students and families about the importance of attendance during Attendance Awareness Month and throughout the rest of the year. Students in the district are invited to participate in an Attendance Awareness Month Student Poster contest.
SFUSD has a number of existing wraparound services to support students in coming to school and receiving the care they need to succeed. When students are chronically absent, the district and schools utilize a care coordination strategy that involves intentionally organizing student and family services at a school site to support a student to overcome barriers to attendance. Schools and central office staff work collectively to foster a sense of belonging for all students so that when students become chronically absent there are existing, meaningful relationships that support the coordinated care effort. Schools will be closely monitoring attendance data and implementing staff teams to intervene early when students are at risk of chronic absenteeism.
“All of the other goals we have set as a district - third-grade literacy, 8th grade math, college/career readiness - won’t change much if kids aren’t in school,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Matt Wayne. “Students attending school every day leads to academic progress as well as stronger connections with each other and with teachers.”
As part of the Attendance Awareness Campaign, SFUSD students and families were welcomed back to school this year with a phone message from Superintendent Wayne underscoring the importance of attendance and the theme “You Belong Here.”
SFUSD absenteeism data has mirrored national trends. As part of the Board of Education’s adopted Vision, Values, Goals and Guardrails, Superintendent Wayne has identified chronic absenteeism as an Interim Guardrail. SFUSD has committed to reducing chronic absenteeism from 29% in the 2021-22 school year to 24% in the 2023-24 school year. Attendance will be the topic of a Board of Education workshop on Oct. 24.
Throughout the nation, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 8 million students were chronically absent. Early data from states indicates that the figure has likely doubled, potentially affecting nearly 16 million students nationwide by the end of the 2021–22 school year. Research shows that starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absenteeism predicts lower third grade reading scores and by middle school, serves as a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school.
Chronic absenteeism disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves — barriers that city agencies and community partners can help families address. SFUSD has a Family Link line that directly supports families in overcoming these barriers.
SFUSD joins other schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others throughout the nation in committing time and resources to raise public awareness, map local attendance gaps and work with community partners to improve school attendance and student engagement starting as soon as children enter school.
“September is a particularly good time to focus on attendance,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, a national nonprofit initiative dedicated to improving school attendance. “Research shows that students who miss two to four days in the first month of school are more likely to become chronically absent during the school year. By paying attention to absences early in the school year and early in a child’s academic career, we can turn around attendance and achievement.”
For the Attendance Awareness Campaign, school leaders, community advocates, parents and students are encouraged to act upon these critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism:
- Build a habit and a culture of regular attendance
- Use data to determine when and with whom chronic absenteeism is a problem
- Identify and address barriers to getting children to school