Angelo Gonzales, United Way of Central New Mexico Chief Strategy Officer testified before the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) staff with Rep. Pat Ruiloba as an expert witness on chronic absenteeism and the lessons learned from our work in central New Mexico.
The presentation reflected the recommendation of the High School Graduate Network concerning reforms to the state’s compulsory school attendance law. The Network recommends that the state shift its approach to school attendance from a focus on truancy to a more supportive approach that uses chronic absenteeism as the key metric for tacking student attendance.
Chronic absence or missing ten percent or more of the school year for any reason, is a research-informed definition that has been shown to be strongly linked to lower academic outcomes and lower graduation rates. This contrasts with the truancy model in which a student is considered habitually truant when he or she has accumulated the equivalent of ten or more unexcused absences and is more punitive in nature.
Angelo explained that good attendance lays the groundwork for building good habits that carry on through adulthood. Poor attendance is one of three early warning indicators that a student may drop out, the other two are behavior and course completion.
Mission: Graduate’s focus on attendance includes:
- The development of attendance guides by local experts used to initiate conversations between education professionals and parents.
- Providing support in the development of attendance teams.
- Hosting conferences and professional development for attendance teams.
Ruiloba also presented on the updated bill carried during the last legislative session, which now includes many of Mission: Graduate’s recommendations, one of which is using a Tiered System of Supports in which Tier 1 represents universal strategies to encourage good attendance for all students. Tier 2 provides early intervention for students who need more support to avoid chronic absence. Tier 3 offers intensive support for students facing the greatest challenges to getting to school.
The presentation was received well and received strong engagement from Chair Sen. Mimi Stewart, Vice Chair Rep. Andres Romero, Rep. Debra Sarinana, and Rep. Dennis Roch.
Chair Sen. Mimi Stewart specifically talked about her personal experience with Community Schools and agreed with our recommendation to utilize them as a key strategy in lowering chronic absence rates.
Ruiloba will present a bill in January for consideration by the full legislature. Angelo will serve as an expert as needed.