Many long-standing processes and procedures were turned on their heads as a result of the pandemic, and attendance record keeping was no exception. Prior to the final months of the 2019–20 school year, distance learning was an undefined term, and the most comparable instructional model came in the form of independent study. The advent of distance learning introduced changes to the consideration of instructional time, and introduced a new document: the weekly engagement record.
Education Code Sections (EC §) 43500–43511 were codified, and included the record keeping requirements for local educational agencies (LEAs) that participated, in whole or in part, in distance learning. Not only were LEAs required to incorporate weekly engagement records into their processes, but many student information systems were changed to align with the required fields codified by EC § 43500–43511.
As LEAs across the state transition to more in-person instruction, and less distance learning, the audit season for the 2020–21 school year will be in full swing. To ensure that attendance records are in compliance with distance learning parameters, LEAs—from September 1, 2020, forward—must have complete weekly engagement records for all pupils who participated in part, or in whole, in distance learning. The weekly engagement records for each pupil must include the following documentation:
- Synchronous or asynchronous instruction of each whole or partial day of distance learning
- Daily participation, or lack thereof
- Tracking of assignments
LEAs must also have written tiered reengagement strategies for pupils who are absent from distance learning for more than three days, or 60% of the instructional days, in a school week.
The final audit guide is available on the Education Audit Appeal Panel’s website, inclusive of the audit procedures for distance learning. The audit guide requires auditors to select a specified number of students from each school identified for testing, and verify that for each student, a complete weekly engagement record is on file. For secondary students, this will likely result in significantly more documentation than in prior years as the entire week, inclusive of all periods, will be subject to audit.
As LEAs prepare for their annual audit, it is critically important to ensure that the weekly engagement records contain the requisite components and meet the standards to pass an audit. For more information on this topic, and other pandemic-related changes to the 2020–21 audit process, please join us for our webinar titled, “The Audit Challenge-An Interactive Two-Part Webinar Series.”