Ed Trust—West Applauds Signing of Legislation to Help California Schools Identify Students at Risk of Academic Failure or Dropping Out


OAKLAND, CA (October 1, 2010) The Education Trust—West applauds Governor Schwarzenegger for signing Senate Bill 1357 into law yesterday.  Authored by Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the law includes attendance data in California’s longitudinal data system and moves the state towards the development of the attendance-based early warning systems that are critical for identifying students at risk of dropping out or graduating with low-levels of college or career readiness.

“We know that data is a powerful tool for closing achievement gaps,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty.  “With this bill now signed into law, schools and educators will have the data they need to utilize one of the most basic predictors of a student’s success in school—attendance—in order to help them from dropping out.”

Over 100,000 of California’s students drop out of school each year. Many students drop out because our public school system failed to identify them as “high-risk” and did not take action to provide additional attention and interventions to help them succeed in school.

Chronic absence, even in the earliest of grades, is one of the best predictors of whether a student will drop out.  Researchers have been able to identify and use highly predictive indicators, particularly chronic absence, to accurately identify over half of a district’s future dropouts as early as the 6th grade.  Yet, attendance is a widely ignored data indicator in the collection and reporting of education data.

With SB 1357 now signed into law, California will change this reality for the better.  The state will now be collecting absenteeism data on individual students statewide, over time, and then using it to identify students with the greatest needs in order to prevent them from dropping out.  Also, the state will develop an early warning system to trigger interventions and supports at the school and district level for students who are chronically absent and have other at-risk indicators such as high mobility, poor grades, etc.

“Collecting this data is huge step forward for California,” continued Ramanathan.  “We know just how much these data can be used to improve the decision-making of school and district leaders and inform the educational practice of teachers and other educators to change the lives of students.”

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About The Education Trust—West

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and to forever close the achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this— All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.