From this week's Print Edition

Chronic Absenteeism Drops In Schools

Superintendent Cites Success Of Support Programs
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School Superintendent Geoff Yantz said, “By looking into the reasons why students are absent, we have been able to adopt new programs and hire staff to help in ways that best support our students, especially on the social-emotional level.” Photo by Skye Hannah

Chronic absenteeism across the South Pasadena Unified School District dropped between 2018 and 2019, from 4.7 percent to 2.9 percent, according to recently released 2019 California School Dashboard data.

Chronic absenteeism refers to the percentage of students who are absent from school 10 percent or more of the instructional days they were enrolled.

In a press release Jan. 23, school officials shared ways that the district has worked to bolster early interventions and positive school culture in order to help improve student absenteeism rates.

“Reducing chronic absenteeism has the potential to improve student advancement,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “By looking into the reasons why students are absent, we have been able to adopt new programs and hire staff to help in ways that best support our students, especially on the social-emotional level.”

With support from South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF), five years ago the district adopted “Train Your Brain,” a support program at the middle school and high school that works in research-based intervention and prevention strategies.

High school students work with on-campus conflict resolution (the SPHS Peer Mediators), suicide prevention, developmental asset “ticklers” that are shared weekly by teachers and a digital citizenship curriculum that is tailored to age groups and taught at middle and elementary schools.

In the past few years, high-school administrators, counselors, teachers and families have been working with Challenge Success to guide students in “creating a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for students.”

The middle school grew its social-emotional offerings via programs such as Where Everyone Belongs, peer mediation, Project Wisdom (focusing on character and development) and suicide prevention.

All three elementary schools also now use positive-behavior intervention and support strategies, the Second Step Character Education program, small targeted group counseling with elementary school counselors and mindfulness strategies that work in listening, breathing, seeing, walking and eating.

“Not only are the schools offering a wide variety of programs that support student mental health, but the district has provided more in-depth training for faculty and regularly works with the PTSA to offer parent education forms on topics such as adolescent stressors, anxiety in teens and digital citizenship,” said Yantz.

To support the programs and most mental health services for students, the district also expanded its counseling team and added more than 10 additional positions focused on student well-being over the past five years to support its social-emotional support systems.

Counseling interns from California State University Northridge, California State Los Angeles and The University of Southern California have also worked with the Train Your Brain specialist at the middle school and high school. 

Since 2015, the district has made increased investment in social-emotional learning with new revenue being channeled to programs and staffing.

“It is rare for a district with our state funding level to offer this breadth of support,” said Yantz. “We will continue to fine-tune our programs and services to improve the educational environment and build our network of community-based resources.”

Skye Hannah, Senior Reporter

Skye Hannah is a senior reporter for the South Pasadena Review and the San Marino Tribune, covering education, government, sports, features and civic issues. Skye previously served as an award-winning senior staff photojournalist and staff writer for five years for the Rome News-Tribune in Rome, Georgia. You can contact Skye with news tips and feedback at / Twitter @SkyeHannahCA

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