Absent: Average high school seniors miss 152 learning hours compared to 94 hours in the 11th grade. Courtesy image

More students are missing class in the years following pandemic restrictions on local education with high school seniors missing more classroom hours than any other grade level.  

As the Santa Malibu-Unified School District continues trying to assess the full extent of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on students, attendance numbers and school climate survey data from the last few years will be among topics discussed at this week’s School Board meeting. 

While the first part of a student metrics report presented to the board on Sept. 14 suggested students weathered the pandemic relatively well in terms of maintaining test scores, the second part, set to be presented at this week’s meeting, reveals a significant decrease in attendance rates over the last few years.

According to this report, chronic absenteeism rates in the district increased to 16.1% from the 2020-21 school year to the 2021-22 year. The rate changed most dramatically among 12th grade students, with an increase of  55%. The report also includes results from surveys taken by staff, students and parents during the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years. 

The surveys show an increase in how connected parents said they feel to their schools, with 78% of parents expressing they felt the school “actively seeks the input of parents before making important decisions” in 2019-20 compared to only 59% in 2021-22. Staff who said they felt the “staff working environment is positive” in 2021-22 increased 10% from a low 29% in the 2019-20 school year.

Survey results also suggest that the pandemic had a limited effect on the amount of staff and parents who reported feeling schools are safe, which continues to hover at around 90%. Students, however, reported feeling significantly less secure than the adults with only 57% of 11th graders, 58% of 9th graders and 65% of 7th graders responding that they felt safe at school in the 2021-20 year, which is not a significant difference from the year before. 

Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora and Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation Stacy Williamson are expected to elaborate on the data at the Thursday meeting. 

Other items on this week’s agenda include the completion of the superintendent’s performance evaluation for the 2021-22 school year and a public hearing, in accordance with California state education code, to determine the sufficiency of educational materials provided to students in the district and ensure they align with state standards. 

The board will also hear a request for supplemental instructional materials from a librarian, teachers and the principal at Lincoln Middle School. The educators are recommending that SMMUSD adopt seven books for 6th-8th grade language arts. The books are “Clap When You Land,” by Elizabeth Acevedo, “House Arrest,” by KA Holt, “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thanhà Lai, “Long Way Down, The Graphic Novel,” by Jason Reynolds & Danica Novgorodoff, “Loving vs. Virginia,”  by Patricia Hruby Powell, “The Crossover,” by Kwame Alexander and “The Poet X,”  by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

More information about these books as well as the full agenda for the Oct. 6 meeting can be found on the SMMUSD School Board website: https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/SB_Meetings/ViewMeeting.aspx?S=36030435&MID=14498. The public meeting will begin at 6pm.