San Antonio Kids Attend to Win is an initiative focusing on improving attendance, especially for the most chronically absent students. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 10% of school days, or in a 180-day school year, at least 18 days total. All schools report and analyze average daily attendance, but do not necessarily look at individual students. When schools are able to analyze attendance at the student level, they discover that the same students tend to be absent over a longer period of time. For example, if a school has an average daily attendance rate of 97%, they might not realize the 3% who are absent tend to be the same students. By focusing on chronic non-attenders, schools can impact individual students as well as increase average daily attendance. Chronic absenteeism is not the same as truancy, which is defined as a certain number of unexcused absences within a certain time period (in Texas, missing ten days in six months or three days in four weeks). Truancy does not reflect the entirety of the absenteeism problem, as it only counts absences which were unexcused and is a higher threshold than chronic absenteeism. Additionally, processes for filing truancy vary among school districts, including student & parent involvement as well as referral time. While truancy is an important legal issue, chronic absenteeism affects academic performance before truancy referrals are even an option. During the 2015-2016 school year, the P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County (P16Plus) worked with 21 campuses in Harlandale Independent School District, 10 campuses in San Antonio Independent School District and 16 campuses in Southwest Independent School District. All three school districts serve a majority Hispanic and economically disadvantaged population. Harlandale ISD serves 15,086 students, is 98% Hispanic/Latino, and 86% economically disadvantaged. San Antonio ISD serves 53,069 students, is 91% Hispanic/Latino, and 92% economically disadvantaged. Southwest ISD serves 13,692 students, is 90% Hispanic/Latino, and 82% economically disadvantaged (TEA Student Enrollment Reports 2015-2016). This report will review research available on chronic absenteeism and its impact on student academic performance. We will then focus on the SA Kids Attend to Win initiative, showing characteristics of chronically absent students as well as data on students who improved attendance throughout the year. We will conclude with survey and focus group data, including reflections on positive outcomes of the program as well as suggestions for further improvement.
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