San Dieguito Academy Newspaper

Screenshot from Family Guide to ATTENDANCE & ENGAGEMENT during Distance Learning document

The Family Guide to Attendance & Engagement during the Distance Learning document lays out the engagement notes category from teacher input

San Dieguito Union High School adopts new attendance policy

September 25, 2020

San Dieguito Union High School District adopted a state-mandated attendance following SB-98 on Tuesday. 

This new transition would mean that teachers will be tracking attendance and engagement separately and notify parents about how well their student is engaging in classwork or class. Attendance code would range from present, not present, unexcused, personal, or excused absences. 

The attendance policy started with Attendance Code 2, which noted that a student was not present. Code 1 stated a student was present, but neither of the codes had anything related to engagement. Now, the structure has drastically changed with clearer expectations about synchronous participation since last spring. 

These new adjustments would include teachers adding notes about engagement.  The definition of engaged would be different in each class,  such as turning on their camera, responding to the teacher’s question, or completing assignments on time—the teacher inputs choices such as fully engaged in synchronous and asynchronous work partially or not engaged. Teachers also mark whether a student was on time or more or less than 30 minutes late.

Partially engaged, not engaged, or non-responsive would mean that a student showed up to class but did not participate, turn off their camera, and/or did not complete their work.

Assistant Principal Katie Bendix has been in charge of campus, and student-specific attendance follows the board and district policy.

“We had 15% of our student population that ended up being identified by a teacher, as non-responsive ended up being referred to our site support team which included counselors, assistant principals from March 13 through June 12,” Bendix said. “Now, it’s only 5% of our students are present but not engaged. I would say it’s a pretty massive improvement.” 

In addition to tracking attendance, Bendix, the rest of SDA’s admin team, and the district identify and intervene in any negative attendance trends in an individual student’s record. This plan falls under the multi-tiered reengagement plan that outlines a few strategies. 

These strategies include a daily call from Aeries that will notify parents of any unverified absence(s), missing three school days, or not completing a cumulative 60% of their instructional days. If any of this were to occur, parents would receive a letter. 

If concerns persist, a second letter would be sent home, and the parents would be invited to participate in a Student Support Team, which consists of one member of administration, the parent, student, a counselor, and any other support provider(s), such as a teacher. The team would then assess and coordinate additional support sources, whether that be academic, social-emotional, or technological related issues. 

And if none of the interventions work, the school may make a home visit like a welfare check to make sure a student is physically and mentally healthy and has all their basic needs met like food.

There are multiple mandates related to attendance within SB-98. Some include daily attendance checks, daily engagement and participation tracking, weekly monitoring, and within the district, tiered engagement plans with students who are identified as attendance or engagement concerns. 

This new attendance policy and criteria will only be in effect for distance learning, but that’s not to say some aspects that are working well will be incorporated into other attendance policies in the future, according to Bendix. 

The new attendance policy will still comply with distance learning attendance policies and procedures for 2020-21, which were implemented at the start of this school year. Parents must still contact the attendance office to verify absences.

“I have appreciated the collaborative nature and close communication of the development of this policy with the whole district and school. And of course, the teacher’s flexibility to this additional layer and for working so hard for the students,” said Bendix.

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