May 25, 2016
Lindsay Moussa, 503-378-2761
State Releases Absenteeism Report Featuring Student and Family Perspectives
Chief Education Officer convenes legislators and cross-sector leaders to discuss shared response to findings
(Salem, OR)–Today, the Chief Education Office released a report on chronic absenteeism that examines barriers to regular school attendance from the perspective of students and families. The report, created in collaboration with Portland State University and the Coalition of Communities of Color, gathered data through 44 focus groups in seven communities across the State.
The qualitative study resulted in the identification of two overarching themes: a need for culturally responsive practices (including those connected to relationships and school/classroom opportunities), and the importance of addressing systemic barriers (defined as a set of circumstances that affect school and families). In addition to general themes across communities, the study includes a focused analysis of two student groups most affected by chronic absenteeism, students with disabilities and Native American students. Collectively, the themes informed a set of six recommendations for the State and local communities across Oregon.
“This study offers a powerful snapshot of the experiences of students and families in our schools that have contributed to high absenteeism rates,” said Chief Education Officer Lindsey Capps. “The voices in this report, taken in concert with existing research, call us to come together to develop cross-sector solutions to engage students in school, and holistically support families.”
The report is unique to the field and the State. Unlike existing state and national reports, which primarily focus on best practices within districts to improve attendance rates, this report focuses on using student and family voices to identify the root causes that contribute to students being regularly absent. The study intentionally oversampled populations who are most likely to be disengaged from school including tribal students, students with disabilities, communities of color, and students who speak English as a second language.
Chief Education Officer Lindsey Capps will host a report briefing and discussion today to bring leaders together to reflect on how the student and family perspectives offer a lens to inform existing and future efforts to reduce absenteeism, and engage students in their learning. Attendees will include: legislative leaders, education agency leaders and partners, and cross-sector agency leaders representing health and human services.
Chronic absenteeism is linked to critical markers of success in school. Absenteeism as early as sixth grade decreases high school graduation likelihood, and generally chronic absenteeism is also predictive of post-secondary enrollment, and increased involvement with the juvenile justice system. Beyond education, absenteeism also has implications for individuals’ long-term health and wellbeing. Children who do not graduate high school have greater health risks as adults.
A recently released national report from Education First that focuses on partnerships between districts and teacher preparation programs. It specifically spotlights a partnership between Salem Keizer, Western Oregon University, Corban University and Willamette University. Congratulations to all the individuals who were part of this work and to those who are now sustaining the partnership.
An excerpt from the report:
“In an era of rigorous college- and career-ready standards, students’ increasingly diverse backgrounds, and tougher educator evaluation systems, novice teachers are entering classrooms that require new and higher levels of expertise and instruction. Yet many district leaders face the prospect of not being able to put anyone, much less a high-quality teacher, in front of each student on the first day of school. Preparation programs, too, are challenged to find strong student teaching placements, ensure jobs for their graduates and keep up with the rapidly changing requirements of the teaching workforce. Many of these organizations have realized they cannot do it alone. The rapidly changing environment requires strong, bold partnerships between districts and preparation programs, supported by effective policy, to ensure all students have access to an excellent teacher. “
Community Engagement in Rural Areas
BY: LISA ATTYGALLE
Community Engagement so often relies on citizens feeling an affinity and commitment towards their local area or an issue, but what is unique about engaging community in a rural area? What methodologies can be used to increase participation? How can we ensure that all voices are heard? In rural areas it is often harder to focus on one shared issue and to unite a community when individuals are geographically dispersed and each encounters their own nuanced lifestyle and related issues.
From February 10-12, 2015, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) hosted their annual conference which included a session co-hosted by the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) entitled “Rural & Small Communities – Evolving the Competitive Edge: Rural Community Engagement.” I was invited to speak about Community Engagement and share ideas and tactics for deepening community engagement. Session participants then joined roundtable discussions to share success stories, resources and tools; discuss barriers to engagement; and to brainstorm solutions. Students from the University of Waterloo’s Local Economic Development (LED) program volunteered to facilitate the discussion and take detailed notes, resulting in a report entitled Evolving the Competitive Edge: Rural Community Engagement which provides an overview of the session and synthesis of the key findings and outcomes produced through the discussion.
What are the Barriers to Rural Community Engagement?
Through the roundtable discussions, participants revealed barriers to successful community engagement within rural communities. These challenges can be found during the initial consultation phase, as well as in subsequent phases as a project or initiative moves towards implementation.
Barriers identified by participants included:
Gaining initial traction can prove difficult if there is little political will.
Public officials may see community engagement as foolhardy and may feel that they are elected to speak for their constituents. This view was most prevalent in communities where elected officials have been in office for a long time.
Tensions may exist between newcomers, seasonal residents and established residents and reconciling the views of these distinct groups might prove difficult.
In some rural communities, residents without deep local roots were viewed as outsiders
In communities considered ‘bedroom communities’, the level of interest among residents is often diminished because of the lack of a personal connection with their place of residence.
Rural communities often face unique logistical challenges organizing community engagement sessions, particularly given the large geographical areas they cover. Lack of public transit can also be a barrier to participation.
Municipal leaders may struggle with turning feedback into action.
It may be necessary to manage public expectations about what is possible within financial and regulatory constraints.
Municipal leaders and community members are often risk averse to participating in community engagement efforts.
Being aware of these potential barriers is helpful. It is easier not to get stuck when you can foresee the potential tough points and assign resources and efforts accordingly. Even being in a room with others who had experienced similar barriers was a worthwhile step in sharing, commiserating together and generating options for effectively moving forward.
What Does Successful Rural Community Engagement Look Like?
Participants were asked to think of organizations or groups within their communities who are demonstrating exceptional leadership in community engagement, and to share what success looks like.
Principles for success include:
Always use multiple channels for engagement to capture a diversity of perspectives and reach all corners of your community. The mechanisms for outreach and engagement have expanded rather than changed, so social media and other technologies need to act as a complement to rather than a replacement for traditional outreach and engagement techniques, especially in rural areas.
Successful community engagement requires organizational and political leadership. Having political leaders visibly involved in the engagement process helps dispel the common perception that politicians may withhold information and allows for the engagement to be more sincere, open and transparent. Local officials are also able to set clear objectives and goals to help guide public participation and engagement that is aligned with other activities.
Successful community engagement also requires public leadership. Utilizing local social capital is vitally important, and allowing citizens to take on such roles not only increases the level of public impact, but frees up local staff to take on other projects.
Feedback and follow-through are critical.
The public wants to know that their voices mean something and that the time they have invested has made a difference and has had an impact. Participants should know what stage of the planning process they are stepping into so they can provide appropriate input. This also helps to manage expectations around how much the community can affect the outcome.
Smaller scale efforts can often achieve greater results since citizens or key stakeholders may only have an interest in certain aspects of a project. Use targeted, smaller scale events, surveys, and meetings that all connect into a larger project or issue.
Read the full report to learn more about the unique barriers, successes, and tools for community engagement in rural communities and be inspired by two case studies of successful rural community engagement initiatives.
Read the report – Evolving the Competitive Edge: Rural Community Engagement
Attend Community Engagement: Technologies for Change a one-day workshop with Lisa Attygalle on May 28th in Red Deer, AB.
Find other resources for small and rural communities at www.vibrantcanada.ca
We’ll use this blog to post the latest research and upcoming conferences, summits and events. We will also profile exemplary programs, partnerships and promising practices.