Attendance Considerations for Remote Learning Plans

Attendance Considerations for Remote Learning Plans

(This information does not apply to computer- or internet-based community schools or community schools that operate a blended learning model. These schools have their own separate requirements for monitoring and reporting attendance.)


Foundational Actions for Gauging Attendance in Remote Learning

Now more than ever, it is important for districts and schools to work with students, families and partners to identify approaches for encouraging and tracking attendance that accommodate the unique situations of each child. Barriers to attendance will look different during the 2020-2021 school year and may be more significant for some students than in the past. It is likely that Ohio’s most underserved students will be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, increasing their risk of absences.
 
The Ohio Department of Education, along with its partners who are committed to increasing student attendance, is driven by and strongly encourages schools and districts to consider the following guiding principles for gauging attendance in a remote learning setting:
 
  1. Maintain contact information for students and families and build strong relationships that can endure time and distance.
    1. Student and parent contact information. First and foremost, maintain regularly updated contact information for students and parents. This can be a first step in preventing students—especially the state’s most vulnerable—from falling through the cracks.
    2. Digital access. Use outreach opportunities to learn more about the student and/or family’s digital access, including internet connectivity and technology devices. Successful digital remote learning experiences require consistent access to the internet and technology devices.   
    3. Engage and build long-term trust. Continue to establish meaningful communication that connects students, families, educators and, in some cases, other caring adults from the community. This builds trust and enables collaboration that empowers families and communities to support student attendance. Parent and family engagement can include creating connections to community supports that meet the needs of the whole child, training on remote learning platforms and other technology, and communicating clearly district and school attendance expectations.
     
    Students and families benefit from relationships with teachers, school staff, coaches and mentors. These caring adults play vital roles in communicating with families and often know how best to stay in touch as they are the individuals students see most often.
 
  1. Pay attention to health and safety first. The focus on consistent student attendance, including exposure and engagement in learning, should be balanced with a priority on the health and safety of students, families and educators.
 
  1. Emphasize student presence and engagement. The keys to ensuring students are present, engaged and supported in learning include maintaining frequent contact with students and families, connecting students to appropriate resources, encouraging student participation and offering enriching, interesting and engaging learning opportunities.
 
  1. Use data to drive decisions. Leverage use of short- and long-term data to understand successes and opportunities, support diverse learning styles, identify solutions and drive continuous improvement. As part of this work, districts and schools are encouraged to consistently collect, report and pay attention to student attendance data.
 
  1. Leverage community partnerships that address the whole system. Collaborate with strategic community partners to strengthen efforts to support attendance, exposure and engagement in learning. Each education partner has unique insight that can help inform direction. This is especially the case since community partners support mental health and well-being initiatives.
 
  1. Use a multi-tiered system to support the whole child. It is crucial to support the needs of the whole child by using a multi-tiered system of support to remove barriers that prevent students from participating and engaging in learning, mitigate negative learning experiences, address lack of engagement and misconceptions, and provide needed social-emotional supports. 

These guiding principles were informed by the Ohio Department of Education’s partnership with the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Proving Ground and Attendance Works. Each of these partners collaborate to increase student attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism through the Stay in the Game! Network. For more information, please visit get2school.org
 

Including Attendance in Remote Learning Plans

Remote learning plans are a temporary requirement for the 2020-2021 school year only and apply to traditional public schools and community schools that are not computer- or internet-based community schools and not operating blended learning models. It is understandable that many districts or schools selecting remote learning options may not have existing record-keeping systems that match those required of computer- or internet-based community schools. Districts or schools using remote learning plans should track attendance details locally to the degree that their current systems allow, as long as they are able to address the considerations outlined below.

For traditional public schools, there is no connection between funding and student attendance or participation. However, tracking attendance has value for monitoring and supporting student access and exposure to engaging teaching and learning opportunities. 
 
Community schools, however, do rely on attendance to determine funding. While there is this added layer of purpose, community schools that are not computer- or internet-based schools should expect to monitor and track attendance in ways comparable to traditional public schools during this unprecedented time.
 
As remote learning plans are prepared, the plan requirements include “the school’s attendance requirements, including how the school will document participation in learning opportunities.” As described below, districts and schools have options for how to track attendance. However, all districts and community schools will be expected to continue reporting attendance in hour increments at the student level within EMIS and should strive for a consistent policy for determining attendance across schools and classrooms within the district.
 
The remote learning plan should address how attendance will be monitored and collected at the student level. The following are important considerations in the development of the attendance requirement for each district or community school’s remote learning plan:
 
  • Tracking Attendance: Districts and community schools should track attendance for all students, regardless of the mode of learning. The tracking of attendance does not have to be so precise as to know what every student is doing at every moment with regard to the student’s educational experience. Regardless of the way attendance is tracked, districts and school must convert to and report attendance in hour increments.  

    It is not necessary to take attendance hourly, but the attendance information collected must be reported in hourly increments for each student. While attendance must be reported in hourly increments, districts and community schools may consider monitoring attendance on a regular schedule (for example, weekly) that provides flexibility for families as they support their children’s completion of remote learning activities. 
     
    Although there is flexibility in monitoring attendance, community schools must ensure a remote learning attendance policy and procedures are in place that reflect the “72 hour rule” set forth in  Ohio Revised Code §3314.03(A)(6)(b) “for automatically withdrawing a student from the school if the student without a legitimate excuse fails to participate in seventy-two consecutive hours of the learning opportunities offered to the student.
     
    Attendance related to in-school activities should be taken in the same manner as it normally is when students are in school. For students engaged in remote learning opportunities, districts and community schools must develop processes to track attendance. Monitoring attendance requires tracking and reporting each student’s time both in the building and during engagement in remote opportunities.
  • Remote Learning Delivery Method: Attendance tracking may require multiple approaches to account for the differences between in-school activities, teacher-led remote learning and self-directed remote learning.
    • Teacher-led remote learning (synchronous): In developing remote learning plans, districts and schools should consider how teacher-led remote learning equates to in-person instruction (likely to be the same). They should then track attendance at the student level in hour increments (for example, two-hour synchronous web-based instruction with students in attendance may equal two hours of attendance for each student).
    • Self-directed remote learning (asynchronous): In developing remote learning plans, districts and schools should consider evidence of participation (or lack thereof) with consistent and clear expectations for students. Evidence of participation may include, but is not be limited to:
      • Daily logins to learning management systems.
      • Daily interactions with the teacher to acknowledge attendance.
        • Examples of daily interactions between teachers and students could include, but are not limited to, messages, emails, telephone calls, video chats or other formats that enable teachers to engage with students.
      • Assignment completion.
        • If using assignment completion to track attendance, teachers should determine the number of hours they expect an assignment to take for a typical student and use that to gauge each student’s attendance.
Examples of how to use assignment completion for attendance in a self-directed context:
  • Analog project example: Students may be assigned to create dioramas of an animal habitat (asynchronous). This project is expected to take eight hours over a two-week period (four hours per week) and requires some digital/online research and hands-on creation. Some students may complete this project in six hours and others may spend 10 hours. However, students that complete the assignment will be reported with eight hours of attendance. Students may then present their dioramas on a synchronous video call with their teacher and classmates, which accounts for its own hour of attendance separate from the completion of the project. This project from completion to presentation can be converted to nine attendance hours for each student that completes the project and attends the synchronous class presentations.
  • Daily or weekly task example: Students are assigned weekly journal prompts that they discuss with their teacher via video at the end of the week or submit via email, learning management system or mail. Responding to the journal prompt can happen digitally or with paper/pencil throughout the week. Students are expected to spend 15 minutes per day (one hour and 15 minutes per week) on their journal prompts.
 
  • Tracking Absences: The typical default for local student information systems is to assume that students are in attendance. A district or school enters absences into the information system based on their occurrence. The following should be considered in tracking absences.
    • Excused absences: Any circumstances for which an excuse is received—regardless of whether the particular time frame covered by the excuse is part of an in-school experience or a remote experience—should be recorded based on past practice. To the extent that remote learning creates new situations where granting an excused absence may be warranted, districts may need to establish new policies for excused absences based on existing options in Ohio Administrative Code 3301-69-02. (See the discussion below on Local Attendance and Absenteeism Policies.)  
    • No evidence of exposure, engagement or participation: If there is no evidence the student participated or engaged in any way in a remote learning activity, then the student should be marked with an absence for the hours for that remote learning activity.
    • Remote learning cannot be used to make up absences from in-school learning: In most cases, participation in remote learning should not be used to give credit for time the remote learning plan requires a student to be in school. For example, if students are on a staggered schedule of in-school learning on Monday and Tuesday and remote learning Wednesday through Friday, students absent from in-school learning on Monday cannot make up those hours later in the week for attendance purposes with additional remote learning hours. (This may be possible in cases where in-school learning is only discretionary or on an “as-needed” basis or in cases when an otherwise healthy student is under quarantine or isolation.)
 
  • Local Attendance and Absenteeism Policies: Districts and community schools should update their attendance and absenteeism policies before the start of school to align with their remote learning plans or blended learning declarations. Ohio Administrative Code 3301-69-02 outlines absence reasons that must be excused but does not limit superintendents from adding to the list of reasons. Superintendents should use this flexibility to create attendance policies that work for their communities with remote learning in mind. Districts and community schools may consider adding excused absences to their policies, such as:
    Every district must have an approach to addressing attendance and excessive absenteeism outlined in their district truancy and attendance policies. Districts should update their policies to align with blended and remote learning plans and should continue to follow all attendance and truancy processes and requirements as outlined in Ohio’s attendance laws (primarily Ohio Revised Code section 3321.191).    

    Aligned with the Ohio Department of Health’s Health Guidelines for K-12 schools, other considerations when updating local attendance policies may include:    
    • Temporary internet outage for individual students or households;
    • Unexpected technical difficulties for individual students or households, such as password resets or software upgrades occurring at inopportune times, such as during a teacher-led remote learning lesson;
    • Student absence due to COVID-19 until alternative arrangements can be made; or,
    • Additional flexibilities to support students and families as they engage in remote learning.
    • Updating the definition of medically excused absence.
      • Example of district policy language: “A medically excused absence occurs any time a student is out of school due to illness or medical visit (physician, dentist, mental health, etc.). Medical excuses will be accepted in the form of doctor’s note within five school days of the absence or parent call-in on the day of the absence due to illness or doctor’s visit. A student may have up to 10 medically excused absences without a doctor’s note, but with a parent call-in. Medical excused absences will be accepted through this process for students participating both in-person and remotely. This policy will be extended beyond 10 days if the student or someone in the student’s family is in quarantine due to COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.”
    • Defining the process and timeline by which an excuse must be received by the district or school.
    • Updating individualized education plans and 504 plans to add attendance accommodations if the student experiences COVID-19, is vulnerable to COVID-19 or has a mental illness intensified by COVID-19.
    • Prescribing processes and procedures for tracking attendance under different modes of learning and reporting attendance by the hour for all students, including those engaging in remote or blended learning opportunities.
    • Monitoring daily absences of students and staff for trends.
    • Allowing otherwise healthy students who may be under quarantine or isolation to continue to participate in educational activity to the fullest extent possible.
    • Ensuring as much as practicable that policies do not penalize staff or students who contract COVID-19.
 
  • Reporting schedule: As appropriate in the local student information system and per local procedures, expected student calendar hours must be recorded as excused or unexcused absences or as hours in attendance. The district student information system likely will require that these hours be assigned to specific days in the school’s calendar, but the district can adopt procedures to allow flexibility in situations where students have varied schedules throughout the week. Determining and recording attendance also can be sensitive to families who can only complete a majority of their remote work during the evening or over the weekend. In the end, the attendance hours may need to be attributed to specific days in the school’s calendar for information system purposes, but districts and schools are encouraged to allow flexibility in determining which days will show any remote education-related absences.   

    For example, if a school is factoring assignment completion into attendance and if a student shows no participation in a remote education activity that should have taken three hours for all students, the three hours of absence do not have to be split across the five days the student had to complete the assignment. To ease record keeping and data entry, local policy may allow for all three hours of absence to be recorded on one of the remote learning days provided for the assignment.   

Last Modified: 8/26/2020 3:16:30 PM