Roll Call: Attendance in Distance Learning 2.0

Students to be Present, Engaged and Supported!
Posted on 08/27/2020
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As students, parents, and staff members prepared for the start of classes on August 31 in distance learning, among the most crucial differences this year, compared to last year, is that attendance will be taken daily.

Each school and the District will track whether students are participating in online classes and accessing remote learning. Students’ attendance in a virtual environment is just as important as it is during in-person instruction.

“Attendance is essential for each student’s academic success and well being,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D. “You could argue that good attendance is more significant than ever. Think of everything that has transpired since last March. Every student and family have experienced some level of stress. For some, the experience was deep trauma, whether from family illness, loss of income or both. The support that schools provide, even in an online setting, can be crucial.”

Teachers will review attendance patterns and analyze data regarding student engagement daily. Any student who is absent 60% or greater during any given week will be contacted by teachers, district social workers, and site administrators to create a plan to re-engage students. Staff members are busily finalizing school schedules to ensure families are provided a structured learning environment prior to the start of the school year.

“A consistent and predictable routine for learning every day gives children a reassuring sense of stability, which many lost when school buildings closed,” Dr. Escobedo said. “Ideally, participation is more than simply measuring electronically who is logging on. It is measuring at a human level whether a student is showing up for an entire class, including for breakout sessions with classmates and engaging in learning and growing.”

Attendance Campaign LogoThe Board of Education adopted a resolution declaring September 2020 as Attendance Awareness Month in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. It is part of a national campaign whose theme this year is Present, Engaged and Supported! Partners include the California Department of Education, the State School Attendance Review Board, and Attendance Works, a national research organization. Good attendance can be a catalyst for students’ future academic success, their preparation for America’s jobs of the future, and their ability to compete in a global economy.

The year 2020 has been unlike any other in at least a century. Students with unique needs may be exceptionally vulnerable to additional risk during the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning.

“We’ve put in place layers of support for our students,” Dr. Escobedo said. “We’ve got to see challenges as new opportunities to engage our neediest youth—really, these are strategies that will also assist all students.”

District Social Workers Set a Standard of Care

District social workers will provide professional development for teachers and staff regarding the unique needs of foster youth and students experiencing homelessness. This will include strategies to build relationships and set up successful routines.

“We have an amazing team of social workers who have been and will continue to be in regular contact with foster families via telephone and electronically to provide them with information and support,” Dr. Escobedo said. “They’ll assist in setting up structures and routines to make distance learning successful and to mitigate barriers to learning, such as access to technology.”

Kids sitting in a circleTo support students who are having challenges with distance learning (e.g., chronically absent students), the social workers will collaborate with parents, students, and school staff to create an action plan for student engagement. Foster youth and students experiencing homelessness who need additional support will also be eligible to receive “Telehealth” counseling services and/or will be connected to wraparound services.

“Our foster and homeless youth need to feel connected and supported,” said Sonia Godoy, District Social Worker. “The District Social Work team will be working diligently to fulfill the needs of our students by providing classroom support, and counseling services as well as continuity of care by connecting families to outside support services and programs, as needed. Staying connected and maintaining those relationships is key to the success of our students. We are grateful to be able to bridge those relationships between our students, school personnel, and their peers to help support our most vulnerable populations.”

School site grade level teams, school attendance teams, and principals will monitor attendance data on a weekly basis to support students and families struggling with engagement during the distance learning period.

More Rigor This Year, Too

Attendance monitoring is not the only significant change in Distance Learning 2.0, as this round of virtual learning has been dubbed. The District has worked with bargaining groups, community groups and parent leaders to ensure engaging, rigorous, and relevant daily instruction occurs while in distance learning. Progress monitoring—such as graded work—also will be a key feature of distance learning this year.

“Now, more than ever, identifying the academic needs of our students once they begin the school year will be essential in order to provide a rich, rigorous instructional program,” said Gloria E. Ciriza, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services. “Assessing student levels in core content areas such as reading, writing and math will be key in order to set meaningful, attainable academic goals for the new school year. Monitoring student progress regularly to make sure our students are progressing is a fundamental component of our instructional programs, even in a distance learning model. Assigning work, establishing success criteria and providing feedback to students on their progress will ensure they are working towards meeting their goals.”

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