Attendance reports in Infinite Campus at the end of the first semester (2016-17) revealed nineteen students were at-risk for retention due to absences. Thirteen of the nineteen students were African American, five were Hispanic and one was Asian. At Bruner and throughout the school district, African Americans have the lowest Average Daily Attendance (ADA) rate. AiMSWeb data revealed six of the thirteen African American students scored below average or well below average reading level on the Fall Benchmark. Based on these pieces of data, I chose to improve the attendance of the thirteen students which would lead to the improvement of their reading skills as my closing the gap (CTG) goal. Attendance Works research shows increasing student attendance is vital for improving achievement. My CTG goal aligned with the school’s goal to “reduce the percentage point gap between proficiency of highest and lowest scoring subgroups in math and reading.”
In the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, the school social worker and I discussed sharing the same goal of improving the attendance of habitually absent students. We planned for both of us to review attendance reports and she would perform home visits addressing the family’s needs while I individually worked with the students at school. The home visits were planned to help address the comfort levels of parents with the school. A 2015-16 district survey on parent perception of school performance revealed five of the eight questions had a majority of negative responses for Bruner. The day prior to the first home visit, the school district stated social workers could not visit homes for safety reasons, and our social worker was not granted rights to run attendance reports. Knowing research showed parent involvement was the key to improving student attendance, the plan was adjusted for the social worker to meet with parents in her school office. Based on individual student needs, our interventions consisted of individual counseling, community referrals, parent conferences, and reporting educational neglect.
End of year attendance records revealed eight of the thirteen CTG students decreased their number of unexcused absences during the 2nd semester and four students improved their overall GPA. 8% of the CTG students improved their reading grade from 1st semester to 2nd semester, while 15% declined. Eight of the students were able to maintain their passing grade. For the entire student body, 16% of students improved their reading grade while another 16% declined. Behavior data revealed eight of the thirteen students received more office discipline referrals during the 2nd semester with the majority occurring the last month of school. Five of these eight students were related and involved in bullying another student. These five students were on track to meet their attendance goals, however, the consequential discipline for bullying and parental actions taken afterwards impacted their attainment.
Based on the results, I will implement the following changes to improve the impact of these interventions; student contracts, weekly check-ins, monthly parent letters, attendance guidance lessons, and school-wide incentives. These interventions were not utilized in 2016-17 due to the focus on direct parent involvement, which was one of the administration’s goals, and my medical leave. Small attendance groups addressing coping skills, goal setting, and social skills will be created to help students overcome barriers to learning. I will implement the additional interventions immediately next school year with the returning at-risk students to ensure their academic improvement.
The student survey used to assess the CTG students’ perception of their attendance was not reflective of all questions asked. Based on their responses, I asked additional individualized questions, such as, information about their home situation, personal safety, and personal goals. Because of my individualized questions, the perception data collected was limited. I will collaborate with my advisory council and other school counselors to create a better attendance measurement that focuses on selected Mindsets and Behaviors. Of the data collected, 77% of the students believed their absenteeism was due to “other” reasons. These reasons included a change in custody, playing video games, and taking a week off for a birthday. The survey data collected was shared with necessary stakeholders to help students overcome their challenges to academic success.