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Tracking student engagement and enrollment during distance learning

Tracking Attendance and Engagement During Distance Learning

By the EdTec Data Team 

August 18, 2020

This past spring, many schools learned that tracking student attendance and engagement during distance learning can be a complicated and often messy process. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! There are many ways to track attendance and engagement in this new learning environment, and you’ll be in better shape if you clearly define which methods your school will use from the start. Accurate data is not only necessary for reporting purposes, it will also help your school to identify students who are not engaging and risk falling behind. We’ve put together a few tips to help schools get a plan in place to track student attendance and engagement this school year.

 

#1 Continue to take attendance on a daily basis 

Most schools need to collect daily attendance to provide evidence of whether a student is present or absent to fulfill state, district, and/or other reporting requirements. This data is also important so that school leaders and teachers have an accurate picture of which students are participating in distance learning and which are not. This data can be used to inform optimal resource allocation and determine the appropriate interventions and supports for those students who need it most.

 

#2 Develop a consistent process for taking attendance that can be applied across learning models 

Schools will likely switch between different instructional models during the 2020-2021 school year, so there should be processes and systems that allow for a seamless transition in attendance recording. To minimize confusion, consider setting up a daily Advisory or Homeroom class that can be used for taking attendance both when the school is offering fully remote instruction and when the school is ready to transition to a hybrid model.

 

#3 Have a system in place for tracking in-person attendance versus virtual attendance 

Even if your school intends to or has already reopened with fully remote learning, plan to have separate codes in place if, and when, the school returns to some form of in-person instruction. Given the vastly different nature of remote learning, the ability to distinguish between and report on the two types of attendance will help schools identify students who may require additional resources and support. Keeping your attendance system as clear as possible will help ease any confusion when in-person instruction resumes.

 

#4 Rely on multiple sources of information to document and verify student engagement 

While the guidance on what qualifies as sufficient documentation of student engagement varies across districts and is evolving, schools should keep track of and be able to demonstrate how students and teachers are being held accountable to one another.

Some sources might include:

  • Gradebook assignments and assignment scores
  • Log in records and log in duration from learning platforms or student portals
  • Daily logs (electronic or paper) that can be saved or stored in a student’s file
  • Online polls or chat history
  • Attendee logs from video or audio calls

If your school uses PowerSchool or Aeries as a student information system, you can reach out to our school data experts for ideas about how to prepare your system for the new school year.

Having a clear plan in place to monitor student attendance and engagement will help your school to collect accurate data for reporting as well as determine which students may need additional support to keep them engaged and learning. How is your school tracking student attendance and engagement? Let us know in the comment section below!

My School Had an Emergency Closure. Do I Need to File a J-13A Emergency Waiver?

By the EdTec Data Team

October 16, 2019

Between power outages, wildfires, and other natural disasters, there are many events that may result in unexpected school closures. Read on to learn if you need to complete a J-13A emergency waiver, and the steps you should take to make sure you’re in compliance with the State of California’s requirements.

If my school experiences an unexpected closure, what should I do?

Before completing a J-13A emergency waiver, there are a few things to consider. First, find out if the length of the closure ends up putting your school below the state’s annual instructional minutes and days requirement. You’ll also want to look at your charter petition to see if you have instructional minutes or days requirements beyond what the state mandates. If your instructional time doesn’t fall below either requirement, you can relax – you don’t need to complete a J-13A waiver.

However, what if the closure puts you below the requirements? Again, don’t panic – you have options! Your first option is to add days to your calendar and/or minutes to your bell schedule later in the year to recover the lost days/minutes resulting from the closure. If you go this route, you do not need to complete a waiver, although it is highly recommended that you get these calendar and bell schedule changes approved by your board. But if you prefer to keep your calendar and bell schedule as is, your second option is to complete a J-13A waiver. Simply completing the waiver isn’t enough; it must be signed by a majority of your board, and approved by your authorizer, the county, and the California Department of Education (CDE). Only after your waiver makes it through this multi-level approval process will the state allow your school to be below the instructional time requirements without penalty.

The J13-A waiver also has a material decrease option. But what does this option really mean? The material decrease option applies to schools that stay open during an emergency. If the event has an adverse impact on the school’s attendance, a school can use the material decrease option to substitute its attendance for the affected days with the school’s average daily attendance (ADA). This option is a bit unpredictable and may not actually be as beneficial as just removing the lost days and/or replacing them. This option is unpredictable because we don’t know exactly what you will get as your final replacement ADA until the CDE approves the waiver and then does calculations based on your attendance data. This is one of the reasons why the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) recommends not filing the waiver unless you know you’re below the instructional minutes and days requirement.

If the emergency occurred before P-1, do I need to file the waiver before submitting my school’s P-1?

Not necessarily, but you should confirm your attendance data accurately reflects any changes caused by the unexpected closure before submitting your P-1 to ensure your ADA is correct.

It is important your school decides as soon as possible whether it wants to file the waiver or add more days to your schedule since you obviously can’t make additions to the calendar or schedule after the year is over. Although schools report days of instruction with the P-Annual at the end of the year and auditors verify instructional time requirements around the same time, it is best to file a waiver before P-2 so you know what your P-2 ADA will be without having to wait for an adjustment. Waivers filed after P-2 will lead to any ADA funding revisions processed as prior year adjustments and won’t be reflected until P-1 of the following year. Also keep in mind that CDE approval can take months, depending how many waivers are submitted.

Now that we’ve discussed the waiver, are there any other things to keep in mind?

Yes, don’t forget your Student Information System (SIS)! Each SIS is different but there should be a way to change days from school days to non-school days. Make sure to update your SIS to reflect any closure days and, if applicable, add any replacement days. You need to do this even if you do not file a J-13A waiver. If you’re still uncertain of what the process is like in your SIS, reach out to your EdTec data contact or your SIS support line.

In addition to updating your SIS, you’ll also need to update your school calendar showing closure days as non-school days. Any other changes such as days added as replacement should also be included in your school calendar update. It is also helpful to recalculate your instructional days/minutes, so you have an updated calculation available.

If you have additional questions about the J-13A waiver, don’t hesitate to reach out to your EdTec data contact. You can also find additional guidance from CDE’s J-13A website at https://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/pa/formj13afaq.asp.