New campaign aimed at getting more students to school to be launched

After struggling for years to improve absenteeism and truancy rates at Taft Union High School District—which both exceed statewide averages—administrators are set to launch an aggressive new campaign aimed at getting more students to school, more often.

Fixing the attendance problem will involve more than just district staff or even parents, and students, Superintendent Blanca Cavazos, Ed.D. said.

“Attendance is important to every single person in the community,” she says. “The students are directly affected and the parents, secondarily. But every single resident of our community is also affected. We all lose when they are not getting the rich education being provided.”

Last year, students at Taft Union High School District had a chronic absenteeism rate of 17.4 percent—well above the 12.2 percent average in Kern County and the 11.1 percent statewide average.

Even more troubling were the truancy numbers: almost 62 percent in the 2015-16 school year—the most recent data that is available. That’s almost double the statewide average of 34 percent.

Cavazos said the district will, in the coming weeks, implement a new, web-based system for better tracking of student attendance and more immediate notifications to parents when a child has missed school. The new tools will help free-up district staff for the more critical activity of intervention.

“We know that the more time that passes between when a student is absent and when it is brought to the parent’s attention, the less likely a correction will be made,” Cavazos said.

The new system will result in a lot more communication between the district and families, but Cavazos was quick to say that she and her staff are not interested in assigning blame. The district, she said, wants to be a partner with parents in changing attendance habits of their children.

“There might be some things going on that we can assist with,” she said. “We can help with referrals to other agencies. There is actually a wide array of services that we can tap into.

“All we want is to ensure that students are taking advantage of the robust educational experience that we are providing,” she said.