Determining our closing the gap goal was easy. GC Source, our Greenville data program, showed 77% of our 774 students had one or more unexcused absences the previous year. This was an area of concern due to the link of poor attendance and academic success.
We needed to improve this but how with so many students? We used PowerSchool to identify gaps. 14 students were identified as truant (10 or more unexcused absences) from the previous school year, with 11 of those 14 students having low socioeconomic status. We decided this should be our target group because not only could we work on improving attendance by working with truant students, we could close the attendance gap with our low SES population. After input from the advisory council we created the goal: By June 2, 2017, the number of identified students in kindergarten through fifth grade with ten or more days of unexcused absences (14 students) in the previous 2015-2016 school year will be reduced by 30% (to 10 students).
Each intervention was purposeful. Research informs us multilevel interventions should be used to improve attendance focusing on school, student, family, and community. Encyclopedia of Social Work and Attendance Matters website talks about research informed and evidence based practices such as educating students and families, tracking attendance, providing incentives, mentors, and enhancing a positive school environment.
Tier 1 interventions focused on classroom instruction linked to attendance in addition to perfect attendance awards school-wide. Most interventions applied were tier 2 interventions directly involving the student. We met with students weekly for check-ins and all 14 were involved in our special “Touchdown Attendance Club.” Students created goals, tracked weekly attendance, and were educated on importance of attendance now and in their future. Students learned about vocabulary and regulations regarding school attendance. Activities targeted a number of mindsets/behaviors such as: BLS.3; BSMS.1; BSMS.2; BSMS.5; BSS.3. Check-ins were positive so they would be excited about coming to school. Our purpose was for students to have a positive attitude toward work and learning and feel a sense of belonging in the school environment, which are mindset standards. Students received prizes when they got a “touchdown” for perfect attendance for the week, no tardies, and bringing in excuses.
Tier 3 interventions were implemented, including letters home to parents regarding attendance regulations and consulting with our school attendance clerk, district attendance interventionist, and teachers. In addition to these interventions 4 out of the 14 students were involved in Greenville Mental Health Counseling and 2 were connected with a high school mentor.
These interventions proved to be beneficial. 64% (9 students) out of 14 students had less than 10 absences for the 2016-2017 school year and 93% (13 students) out of 14 decreased absences from the previous year. We met our goal and closed the gap in improving attendance from truant students and in improving attendance from truant students that were low SES. 64% (7 out of the 11 low SES students) from this group of 14 students had less than 10 absences for the school year. That is 50% of the total group of students worked with for this goal! Here is where we close the attendance gap with truant low SES students.
Check-ins allowed students to feel a sense of belonging and know someone cared about them which targets mindsets 3 and 6. Perception data on pre/post assessments shed light on ways to make changes for the future. By waiting until the end of the year we were unable to get post results for four students due to them not being available. We will improve this by scheduling a time for the whole group to do the assessment before the last week of school. As seen in the results template, we didn’t see much change in knowledge from the pre/post and believe this is due to the manner in which it was given. Next time we will use technology for assessments instead of paper, allowing us to differentiate learning and make it more fun. Although we read the assessment for those with limited reading level, we will add pictures so students have a better understanding of questions. We did have a positive response in their attitude. 100% percent of the students on the post said the interventions made them want to come to school and they enjoyed it.
Based on our data we met our goal and helped close an attendance gap with students with low SES status.