Clackamas County schools received $150,000 to improve school attendance rates

Kaiser Permanente has awarded more than $1 million in grants to seven local organizations to help stem the tide of chronic absenteeism in Washington and Oregon schools that has made them among the states with the highest rates in the nation.

PHOTO COURTESY: KELSEY CARDWELL - Celebrating the $150,000 grant are, from left, Ruth Adkins, government and community relations at Kaiser Permanente; Ewan Brawley, director of teaching and learning at Clackamas ESD; Jada Rupley, Clackamas ESD superintendent; Elizabeth Engberg, health/education initiatives manager at Kaiser.Clackamas County schools received $150,000 to improve school attendance rates. On Feb. 20, a kickoff event included remarks by Gladstone School District Superintendent Bob Stewart and others involved in this effort to expand student supports in schools.

The grant will allow the Clackamas Education Service District to put together teams from each school district.

"They will meet and receive professional development training in trauma-informed strategies to improve student attendance, behavior and academic performance," said Kelsey Cardwell, Clackamas ESD spokesperson.

"Chronic absence is an important public health issue in our community," said Ruth Williams-Brinkley, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals of the Northwest. "Children who are chronically absent are more likely to drop out of school, and we know that the number of years a person attends school is a leading predictor of long-term health. For children in our community, long-term health is the foundation for a happy and healthy life."

A report released in September 2017 by Johns Hopkins University and Attendance Works, using data from the U.S. Department of Education, shows that Washington and Oregon share the designation of states with the highest chronic absence rates in the country.

PHOTO COURTESY: KELSEY CARDWELL - Gladstone Superintendent Bob Stewart speaks with fellow Clackamas County school leaders after they received $150,000 to improve school attendance rates.Chronic absence is generally defined as missing 10 percent of the school year. In Oregon, 21 percent of schools have extreme levels (meaning 30 percent or more of their students are chronically absent), compared with the national average of 8 percent. In Washington, 28 percent have extreme levels.

According to Attendance Works, children living in poverty are two and three times more likely to be chronically absent, and students from communities of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

"Chronic absenteeism isn't about 'skipping school' or the occasional sick day," said Colt Gill, deputy superintendent of public instruction for the state of Oregon. "There are many root causes, like physical and behavioral health issues, institutional inequities and housing and food insecurity. This initiative helps move the dialogue from counting days kids are absent, to understanding why and devising equitable solutions to help."

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