One of the long term goals included in the Ferguson Elementary Local School Plan of Improvement was Ferguson Elementary will meet or exceed the number of students predicted to be College and Career ready as measured by decreasing student discipline referrals, higher student attendance rates, and continuing growth of students receiving passing grades in content courses. In order to help support this goal, the professional school counselors analyzed the 2015-2016 data to see where to direct interventions. The attendance data revealed that students missing 15 or more days of school had a higher percentage of Hispanic students than our demographics would suggest. Because of this, the professional school counselors developed the program goal, “By May 24, 2017, the number of Hispanic students (32) who accrued 15 or more absences will decrease by 10%.”
Our main target group were the 32 Hispanic students who missed 15 or more days in the 2015-2016 school year. These students received interventions at multiple levels. The identified students participated in the BASE Attendance morning check-in intervention conducted by their grade level counselor. The students could earn rewards for attendance and learned that someone in the building was looking out for them and missed them when they were not at school. The identified students also received individual counseling services to identify ways in which to support their attendance.
School wide interventions were also in place to support our target group and our school as a whole. Individual semester perfect attendance awards and monthly attendance awards for the class in each grade level who had the best attendance for the month were awarded to make sure that students saw value of attendance and to reward the positive behavior of attending school. The school counselors also conducted a core curriculum attendance lesson to every class in order to discuss the importance of attendance and make sure that the students understood the rules surrounding attendance at Ferguson Elementary.
Parent interventions were conducted to make sure that attendance was being addressed from all angles. In elementary school, parents have a large role in attendance for our young students, so it is best practice to direct interventions to them. Attendance flyers were sent home at the beginning of the school year to ensure that parents knew the rules surrounding attendance at Ferguson Elementary and what to do if their child was absent. A second flyer was sent home in the Spring semester as the counselors noticed that attendance was not on track for improvement. Excuse note reminders for parents were sent home with individual students who did not return to school with an excuse after an absence in order to help the professional school counselors identify reasons why students may be missing school. Parents were called by the school counselors to discuss attendance when attendance became a concern to help parents understand when a child can remain home and the importance of attending school. Parents also received county generated attendance notifications when their child had 5, 7 or 10 unexcused absences. Lastly, parents were also invited to participate in a parent workshop on the topic of attendance with our school social worker during the month of September, Attendance Awareness month.
The professional school counselors also worked closely with the school social worker to address absence concerns. Weekly meetings were held to discuss students with absence concerns and monitor their progress. For students with 10 or more unexcused absences, Student Attendance Review Committee (SARC) meetings were held that included the parent, school counselor, teacher, and social worker to discuss the impact of the students’ absences on their academics. Plans were developed as a committee to ensure attendance improvement.
Unfortunately, we did not meet our Closing-The-Gap goal, as the total number of Hispanic students with 15 or more absences increased. The targeted group of students showed a great decrease, from 21 to 6 students having 15 or more absences. Looking towards next year, we plan to have our social worker in our school building once a week to hold small groups with students and meet with parents and students regarding attendance. We also plan to implement more parent education strategies surrounding reasons to miss school. This will include the counselors presenting about attendance and reasons to miss school at parent nights, a parent workshop put on by the school, as well as sending home flyers made with the help of our clinic worker explaining what symptoms of illness your child must be exhibiting in order to keep them home from school.