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FAQ: Student Engagement, Mobility, Dropout Prevention, and Transition Support during COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts and charter schools are asking about how student engagement, attendance, and truancy policies and practices have evolved. Below are a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that have been asked. If you have additional questions to add to this information or additional strategies that are working in your community, please contact CDE’s Director of Student Engagement and Dropout Prevention, Dr. Ashley Idrees: email@example.com.
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1. How can we engage students during remote learning?
Student engagement refers to a student’s sense of belonging, safety, and involvement in school that leads to academic achievement, regular school attendance, and graduation. Maintaining regular communication and positive relationships among teachers, counselors, and families is essential to keeping students engaged. The following strategies can promote student engagement during remote learning:
- Establish regular check-ins with students and family through electronic or phone communication, while recognizing not all students can be reached through the same means. Examples include Google Meet and Google Hangout or other chat platforms; emails; phone calls, including toll-free conference room call-ins for small groups of students; and text messages.
- Provide virtual and remote social and emotional support services for students and their families through counselors and school leaders.
- Use United Way’s 2-1-1 to help expand school partnerships with community organizations to help meet the current educational and basic needs of students and their families.
- Leverage project-based learning to engage students with their immediate environment.
2. Are there resources available for supporting students learning at home?
- Visit Resources for Learning at Home to access best practices for educators and parents to support students with remote learning.
- Suggestions for school assignments, learning activities, and online sources to check-in on student well-being and connections.
3. What do attendance and truancy mean during COVID-19?
The governor's executive order and corresponding waiver released districts from requirements related to teacher-pupil contact hours and instructional hours, and CDE will not be requiring a submission or tracking of attendance for individual students during the period that in-person instruction is suspended. With that in mind, CDE encourages districts to continue tracking attendance or participation information to identify possible areas of need to ensure all students are able to stay actively engaged in remote learning. CDE will be leaving decisions on grades and grade-level promotion to local districts.
Districts and charter schools may need to update attendance policies to reflect current circumstances. Districts should review attendance policies for protocols and referrals for student supports. Consider working with CASB to update your policies.
In addition to considering updates to attendance policies and practices, some Colorado school districts are working with students and families to track student engagement through participation or projects, remote learning log-ins, and synchronous or asynchronous classes and engagement with teachers, counselors, or other school staff.
Normally, if students miss more than 10 days, they would be considered habitually truant. In evaluating district truancy policies, consider flexibilities to reflect student engagement and alignment with COVID-19 attendance policies. Truancy referral to the courts is a measure of last resort.
4. What are some best practices to support school attendance and reduce truancy?
Engage with students and families now and over the summer to stay connected. Options for connecting include email, phone calls, social media, and other physically distant methods.
While schools and districts have flexibilities not to take attendance, some schools have chosen to track student participation through online log-ins, teacher check-ins, and weekly assignments so they have information about which students are participating and making consistent contacts. Prioritize additional outreach for students who are not engaging in remote learning..
Given financial strains for many families, communities may experience an increase in student mobility as families look for work and housing. Additionally, some students may be asked to contribute financially toward their family’s well-being. Consider what flexibilities you can offer families in these situations so that students can re-engage in school in such circumstances
5. What are best practices for district-to-district student transfers and transitions?
The transition to remote learning environments has disrupted student learning statewide, and enrollment in a new school increases that disruption. Consider maintaining the current enrollment status this school year for students who are displaced due to COVID-19.
For information regarding students who have moved out-of-state and new students seeking to enroll during the suspension of in-school instruction, visit COVID -19 Finance Q & A.
For families who choose to transfer their students, more information on enrollment, course placement, withdrawals, and transcripts, is available at: District-to-District Student Transfers and Transitions.
6. How can we prevent students from dropping out of school?
During this time, recognize that students have increased risk factors, which may lead to failure to graduate or to complete their education (e.g., school disruption, loss of connections with peers and supportive school staff, reduction of available support services, and loss of engaging activities and events), and offer targeted support.
The Colorado Dropout Prevention Framework outlines how to engage students and accelerate progress in connecting students with school and helping to prevent dropout. Specific strategies to consider during this time include:
- Identification of students who were already at risk of dropping out of school through the use of data analysis, early warning systems, and the review of policies and practices;
- Counseling and mentoring opportunities;
- Completion and credit recovery options;
- Family and school partnerships designed to prevent students from dropping out of school;
- Transition programming when students return to school; and
- Individualized pathways based on students’ unique interests and academic needs.
Visit Dropout Prevention Framework for more information on best practices and strategies to improve student engagement and prevent student dropout.
7. What does it mean to assist out-of-school youth to re-enroll?
During COVID-19, school district staff have shared that students and families are experiencing mobility. This means that districts and schools may be assisting out-of-school youth to re-enroll. Approaches and systems to re-engage youth who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential, which means either a diploma or high school equivalency credential, such as a HSED. This includes retrieval of students who have dropped out within the current school year or those who have dropped out in previous years. Examples include: designating staff to identify and provide outreach to students who have dropped out; and re-enrollment processes that involve individualized transition planning and assessment of a re-enrolled student’s educational needs and strengths and provision of support.
For more information on best practices around student re-engagement and preventing dropout recidivism, visit Re-engagement of Out-of-School Youth.
8. May a student who leaves school prior to completing school, or within this school year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, return to school? What are some considerations and promising practices?
According to state law, in C.R.S. 22-33-103, any Colorado resident between the ages of 6 and 21 is entitled to attend school in the school district of residence when schools are in regular session, tuition-free, subject only to the limitations of C.R.S. 22-33-105 and 22-33-106 regarding the denial of admission.
Consult your district’s policies and procedures pertaining to enrollment for more specific information.
9. What information should families/guardians be aware regarding the reasons a student may be denied admission when attempting to enroll in a school?
Nothing about the current COVID-19 crisis has changed the laws that govern denial of admission. The following may be grounds for denial of admission to a public school for an out of district or non-resident student, see C.R.S. 22-36-101 (3) for more detail:
- a lack of space or teaching staff within a particular program or school requested
- the school requested does not offer appropriate programs or is not structured or equipped with the necessary facilities to meet special needs of the pupil or does not offer a particular program requested;
- the pupil does not meet the established eligibility criteria for participation in a particular program, including age requirements, course prerequisites, and required levels of performance;
- a desegregation plan is in effect for the school district, and such denial is necessary in order to enable compliance with such desegregation plan;
- the student has been expelled, or is in the process of being expelled.
Consult your own district policies and procedures pertaining to enrollment for more specific information.
For additional information, refer to C.R.S. 22-33-105 and C.R.S. 22-33-106 regarding suspension, expulsions, and denial of admission and C.R.S. 22-36-101 regarding choice of programs and schools within school districts.