Orange County Schools Superintendent reports improved attendance rates among students

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez says fewer students are missing class so far this school year.

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With the latter half of the school year well underway, Channel 9′s Alexa Lorenzo sat down with Dr. Vazquez to discuss how students are succeeding this year.

“We continue to focus on student engagement, and ensuring that our students are coming to school,” Vazquez said.

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At the start of the school year, officials hit the ground running to address excessive absenteeism.

A student gets designated as chronically absent once they’ve missed 21 days in a school year.

In the fall, we reported that 27-percent of Orange County students met that benchmark in the 2021-2022 school year.

Fast-forward a few months, and Dr. Vazquez says they are seeing a reduction in those absences.

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“Our schools really did a tremendous job of finding ways to make schools more meaningful and engaging with our students,” Vazquez explained. “Additionally, we used guidance counselors and staff to go out and do home visits, make parents aware your child is missing school. Sometimes you don’t realize that, right?”

Dr. Vazquez says better attendance had led to progress addressing the learning gap from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Progress monitoring data for the first semester came back,” Vazquez said. “Our elementary schools have seen some great increases. Our secondary schools are struggling a little bit more, so that’s an area where we are taking another look at the supports that are available so that we can see similar gains in our secondary schools.”

Researchers at Harvard and Stanford Universities analyzed recent test scores nationwide and found students have made up approximately a third of what they lost in math and a quarter of what they lost in reading since the COVID shutdown.

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Dr. Vazquez says, for Orange County, it’s a team effort from teachers to parents.

“We need to work at it together so that our children do see success,” Dr. Vazquez said. “At the end of the year when they’re taking those final exams.”

Dr. Vazquez adds that she has also seen an increase in student engagement in the classroom.

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