The Correlation Between Attendance and Achievement at Garey High School (Part 2)

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The current attendance policy at Garey High School is in need of revision. Therefore, the purpose of this research project was to create a school wide action plan to address attendance needs. The question posed was, is there a correlation between attendance and achievement at Garey High School? The project used tenth grade students from the fall semester, 2002. All 193 students in the tenth grade that were flagged by their teachers for poor attendance were selected. Three sources of data were collected from these students; (a) grade point averages, (b) citizenship grades, and (c) teacher reported absence data. The data was put onto an Excel spreadsheet and then a Pearson r test was run to show the strength, direction, and the statistical significance of the variables. Since the answer to the research question had the potential to inform professional practice so that productive changes could be made in the future, solutions to attendance problems that have successfully worked elsewhere were also researched. The findings indicated that there is a moderate to strong correlation between attendance and achievement. Consequently, an action plan for attendance policy revision is included in this research project.

Submitted: October 03, 2009

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Submitted: October 03, 2009



According to analysis of the quantitative data, the effectiveness of the ability to predict whether absences and G.P.A. are dependant on each other is 62% better than 0% ability to predict, indicating a moderate to strong relationship. This means that students who have low numbers of absences tend to have a higher G.P.A. and vice versa.  Garey High School has been flagged as a low performing school for the past three years, therefore a logical step to improve achievement at the school would be to implement a school wide action plan that focuses on attendance.

Since there is an indication, that attendance is directly related to achievement in the form of G.P.A. at Garey High School, it would be logical to surmise that the lack of an attendance policy has negatively affected the level of achievement at this school. 
The state of California presently uses not only cognitive, but also non-cognitive measures of performance, such as high school attendance and dropout rates in its quest for accountability.  Consequently, if attendance has become such a high priority issue for the state of California, it must also become a high priority issue in local schools.

The purpose of this study was to create a school wide action plan to address attendance needs.  In researching the problem of attendance at Garey High School, the question whether there is a correlation between attendance and achievement was answered.  The research indicated that there is a moderate to strong correlation between attendance and achievement.  Consequently, an action plan for attendance policy revision is necessary.  In addition, Garey High School managed to meet its A.P.I. goal this year, but failed to meet the appropriate target for A.Y.P. because of poor attendance, indicating that there is an even further need for attendance policy revision at this school.
Many schools in Southern California are also finding it difficult to meet their A.Y.P. goals because of attendance figures, and future researchers are recommended to also look at the correlation between attendance and achievement, to validate the need for attendance policy revision elsewhere.
The recommendations are as follows:
1. A constant record of attendance should be available throughout the day.  Classroom teachers should take attendance each period with a computerized attendance system and attendance aides should account for the excused absences and adjust the system accordingly.
2. Consequences for absences and tardies should be in effect.  Students should be subject to detentions, in-school suspensions, Saturday school, suspensions and expulsions if necessary.
3. Parents and students should be informed of the attendance policy and parents and students should be required to sign a document saying that they have read and understood the policy. 
 Action Plan
Creating a revised attendance policy would not only improve educational leadership practice, it would contribute towards improved student learning.  The plan should follow the California Education Code implicitly and be compliant with local school district policy.  All information concerning attendance policy should be included in the student/parent handbook at the beginning of each new school year, and both students and parents should be required to sign the policy indicating that they have read and fully understood all points.  This policy must be written in Spanish as well as English so that all families can understand the content.  Enforcement of the attendance policy will be the responsibility of the dean of attendance or assistant principal in charge of attendance.
The following information could be written in the Garey High School Student/Parent handbook and be signed by both the parents and students.  It follows California state law and offers alternative consequences.

Garey High School Attendance Policy
Regular Attendance
Daily attendance at school is mandated by California State Law until the age of eighteen. No student is permitted to leave school at recess or any other time before the regular hour of closing without the approval of the school principal or designated authority.  Violations will be considered as truancies (Education Code: 48200).  In 1998, all school districts and county offices of education converted to a system of actual attendance accounting (Education Code: 2550.3, 46010, 46010.5, 42238.7, 2550.4, 42238.8, and 46010.2). 

Reporting a Student's Absence
Parents of Garey High School students are urged to telephone the school office by 8 a.m. on the morning of any absence, or as soon after that as possible, (397-4451).  In addition, parents should phone the school each morning thereafter until the student returns to school, and send a note with their student explaining the absence on the day they return (Education Code: 46012; C.A.C. 306).  If a parent does not call on the same day, we will phone for verification of the absence.  An absence that has not been cleared within three days will be classified as a cut or truancy.

Absence Explanation
A principal or teacher will require a satisfactory explanation from a student’s parent or guardian, either in person or by written note, whenever the student is absent for all or part of the school day. The explanation is not required until the day after the absence (C.A.C. Title V, Section 306.)

Excused Absences
Absences for working, baby-sitting, vacations, trips, bad weather, transportation, personal or family business, applying for driver's licenses, taking a college class, etc. are considered NOT recognized by the State of California.
Education Code: 48205: (a) notwithstanding Section 48200, a pupil shall be excused from school when the absence is (1) Due to his or her illness; (2) Due to quarantine under the direction of a county or city health officer; (3) For the purpose of having medical, dental, optometrical, or chiropractic services rendered; (4) For the purpose of attending the funeral services of a member of his or her immediate family, so long as the absence is not more than one day if the service is conducted outside California; (5) For the purpose of jury duty in the manner provided for by law; (6) Due to the illness or medical appointment during school hours of a child of whom the pupil is the custodial parent; (7) For justifiable personal reasons, including, but not limited to, an appearance in court, attendance at a funeral service, observance of a holiday or ceremony of his or her religion, attendance at religious retreats, or attendance at an employment conference, when the pupil’s absence has been requested in writing by the parent or guardian and approved by the principal or designated representative pursuant to uniform standards established by the board; to serve as an election precinct election worker, (b) A pupil absent from school under this section shall be allowed to complete all assignments and tests missed during the absence that can be reasonably provided and, upon satisfactory completion within a reasonable period of time, shall be given full credit therefore. As the teacher of any class from which a pupil is absent shall determine the tests and assignments shall be reasonably equivalent to, but not necessarily identical to, the tests and assignments that the pupil missed during the absence; (c) For the purpose of this section, attendance at religious retreats shall not exceed four hours per semester, (d) Absences pursuant to this section are deemed to be absences in computing ADA and shall not generate state apportionment payments,
(e) Immediate family, as used in this section, has the same meaning as that set forth in Section 45194, except that references therein to "employee" shall be deemed to be references to pupil.

Unexcused Absences
An unexcused absence is an absence that occurs with the approval of the parent or guardian without a prearranged agreement with the school administration.  Unexcused absences affect the learning process and may negatively affect a student grade.

Any student subject to full-time education who is absent from school without a valid excuse three full days in one school year or tardy or absent for more than any 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof, is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor or to the superintendent of the school district (Education Code: 48260) and when appropriate may be referred to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

Late Arrival/Early Departure
Being tardy for “missing the bus” or “getting up late” is NOT EXCUSABLE.
Students arriving late or leaving early MUST CHECK IN or OUT of the Attendance Office.  A parent phone call or a note to clear the late arrival/early departure should be made the morning of the same day.  Any period missed due to late arrival without a parent note or phone call that same day will be classified as an unexcused period absence and the school will recapture EACH HOUR MISSED through detentions.
Students are expected to be on time to all classes.  All tardies are to be recorded in the teacher's record.  No unexcused tardies are allowed. On the first, second and third tardy the student will be assigned teacher detention.  The fourth, fifth and sixth tardy will result in the student attending In-school suspension.  The seventh, eighth and ninth tardies will result in the student being assigned to the Saturday Work Adjustment Program (SWAP). The tenth tardy will result in removal from the class.

Saturday Work Adjustment Program (SWAP)
As an alternative to brief suspensions, students may be assigned to attend the Saturday Work Adjustment Program (SWAP) held on campus each Saturday morning from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.  Parents will be notified of the assignment by mail, and students will receive reminder notices.

In School Suspension (ISS)
Any student who is tardy for four, five or six days without a valid excuse, will be required to go to In School Suspension where they will make up the absence time by working on academic material in a quiet environment.  If a student is absent for three or more days throughout the school year, they will be assigned In-school suspension and await further truancy consequences.

The recommended timeframe for carrying out this action plan would be from the beginning of the school year in September, until the end of the school year in June. 
Classroom teachers will take attendance by computer during every period throughout the school year.  They will also assign classroom detention for the first second and third tardy.  On the fourth, fifth and sixth tardy, the teacher will write a referral to the school attendance administrator and the student will then be assigned to In-school suspension. A credentialed teacher or administrator will supervise the In-school suspension program.  On the seventh, eighth and ninth tardy, the classroom teacher will write a referral to the school attendance administrator and the student will be assigned to SWAP.  The school site administrator will arrange for an administrator and a proctor to be onsite during the Saturday Work Adjustment Program.
The resources needed to ensure that the action plan is realized would involve wages for a dean of attendance or an administrator in charge of attendance, (if one has not already been secured).  Resources to pay a person to be in charge of the Saturday Work Adjustment Program would also be necessary, and a proctor may be required to help supervise the Saturday Work Adjustment Program.  The total cost of running an efficient attendance program would be $140,000, however since an administrator in charge of attendance has already been secured at Garey High School, the cost of running an improved attendance program would be $45,000.  The High Priority School Grant and The Digital Grant would fund the program.
Garey High School has an annual average daily attendance rate of 94.78%.  If the school raised the average daily attendance rate by only one percentage point, the school would receive an extra $130,565 annually from the state.  These figures justify the cost of an improved attendance program.

The analysis of the data strongly supports my hypothesis that there is a correlation between attendance and achievement, in the form of GPA, at Garey High School.  Since there is a strong indication, it would be logical to surmise that the lack of an attendance policy has negatively affected the level of achievement at this school.  The current attendance policy at Garey High School is weak and is in dire need of revision.  Therefore, this study confirmed the need to create a school wide action plan to address attendance needs.
The implementation of this proposed revised attendance policy for the Pomona Unified School District would not only improve educational leadership practices and contribute towards improved student learning, but it would also increase much needed revenue for participating schools.  The time has come for action and this action plan would be well served.  To again quote Aldous Huxley: “do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”


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