Student Engagement

What is student engagement and why does it matter? 
Student engagement includes a wide variety of strategies to help students feel connected to their schools, teachers, principals, counselors and other adult leaders working to help them succeed. Studies show that engaged students are less likely to drop out and more likely to graduate high school.

The new school funding law requires school district to measure not just attendance, but how many students experience chronic absence, meaning they miss 10% or more school days in a year. Below are resources and ideas to help with advocacy for better student engagement.

Approaches That Work

Listed below are some approaches that keep children in the classroom and give them the opportunity to make their voices heard:

Real-Time Attendance Monitoring
• What is it? Monitoring attendance data in real-time helps teachers and administrators quickly identify students missing school. With this information, educators can provide students and their families with additional support before students fall behind academically or consider dropping out. This helpful document from Children Now and Attendance Works answers frequently asked questions around calculating and monitoring chronic absence in relation to LCFF.

• Where is it working? It’s working in Chula Vista, California; New York City; and Springfield, Massachusetts. You can read about attendance monitoring in Springfield from this Attendance Works PDF.

• Where can I learn more? You can learn more about approaches to improve attendance from Attendance Works. You can learn how to integrate strategies for improved attendance into Local Control and Accountability Plans from this Children Now PDF.

Access to School-Based Health Services
• What is it? School-based health centers and school nurses provide students with the primary care, chronic disease management and preventive services they need to be healthy. Illness is the leading reason students are absent from school or don’t perform to their full potential, so keeping students healthy is a great strategy for promoting student attendance and success. Where is it working? San Diego has opened several school-based health centers.

• Where can I learn more? You can learn more from the California School Health Centers Association.

Social-Emotional Learning
• What is it? Social-emotional learning focuses on teaching students how to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, and feel empathy for others. Studies show that incorporating social-emotional learning approaches into classrooms can improve students' decision-making skills and prevent classroom disruption.

• Where can I learn more? Learn more from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), the nation’s leading organization advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students.

More School Counselors
• What is it? School counselors are specially trained adults that students can turn to for advice and a sympathetic ear. They can provide guidance on anything from academics to conflict resolution, and they can be the first line of defense for students facing a personal crisis. Counseling services have proven effective at preventing youth suicide, and as a part of a comprehensive physical and mental health program, counseling has been shown to reduce violence in schools and in communities. Despite the many benefits of counseling, California currently has the worst student-to-counselor ratio in the nation. Experts recommend that schools have one trained counselor for every 250 students. California has one for every 1,000 students.

• Where can I learn more? You can learn more about what school counselors do from the American School Counselor Association.

How is my district doing when it comes to student engagement?
The Fair School Funding law requires school districts to collect information on student engagement. Student engagement is difficult to measure, but it can be very helpful to track the number of service staff, including school counselors, available to speak with students. Student survey data also shows whether young people feel connected to their schools. Learn more about the number of service staff in your district from the California Department of Education.

Learn more about the statewide ratio of school support staff, such as school counselors and nurses, to students from Kidsdata.org. Data from the California Healthy Kids Survey provides information on student’s health and wellbeing and can be easily searched on Kidsdata.org. Relevant topics include:

•        Bullying and harassment at school 
•        School safety
•        Emotional health of students, including depression 
•        Feeling connected to school

How can you improve student engagement?

• Find out if your school or school district is adopting the approaches described in this paper. If not, ask them to start. They work!
• Spread the word about the number of school counselors, nurses and other support staff in your district. Your community will want to know if kids aren't getting the support they need at school.

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