Brookland Middle School (2018)

Henrico, VA

Closing the Gap


Approximately 20-25% of our population at any given time is enrolled in the ESL program, with about a third being ESL Level 1 students (indicating they read, speak, and understand very little English, if any at all). The portion of students reaching 7+ unexcused absences that were also in the ESL Program was increasing (14% in 2014/15, 16% in 2015/16). Though decreasing overall unexcused absences was our program goal, we focused specifically on the ESL Population for Closing-the-Gap. Our Closing-the-Gap goal was as follows: By June 5th, 2017, the number of students in the ESL Program who reach 7+ unexcused absences will decrease by 40% from the 2015-2016 school year, from accounting for 16% of students to 9.5% or less of students with 7+ unexcused absences.

We identified two main factors contributing to this rise: 1) an inability to communicate between parents/school and 2) transportation issues, especially for Level 1 students who are not actually zoned for Brookland and receive special transportation to school. Parents often did not know the attendance procedures or have the ability to communicate with the school why their child was absent. Though we planned to integrate the ESL students into our other implementations, we knew that was not enough. 21% of parents at BMS spoke Spanish as their primary language and we felt it best practice to advocate to have an official interpreter on campus to address the language barrier. Rather than spending excessive time attempting to coordinate with county interpreters, which required two weeks’ notice and left us unable to address more immediate needs, we knew having a scheduled interpreter on campus would help us be more welcoming to parents who arrive unexpectedly and address the structural issues that arise with an inability to communicate.

After several years of advocating, we secured an on-site Spanish Interpreter for four hours every Wednesday. This proved enormously beneficial as we no longer had to request county interpreters. Every Wednesday, the counselors could communicate with Ms.Aguiar about student concerns and she would call home to translate with us present. Our registrar scheduled all new Spanish speaking enrollments when Ms. Aguiar was on campus to ensure parents understood all school procedures. Many absences from our ESL students are excusable if we received a phone call or note that explained the student’s absence. As Ms. Aguiar could explain the procedure, many parents learned how to handle absences. She created an excused absences template in Spanish that our Spanish speaking families could keep at home to use. This template was approved by our attendance secretary so that any excuse notes received from this template were automatically approved.

We also asked Ms. Aguiar to create a similar template for us to use when communicating home for parent meetings. When a student reaches six unexcused absences, we are required to meet with the parent and student to discuss attendance law and excusable absences. Our meeting notices are only written in English and our ESL parents rarely know to attend. The Spanish template clearly indicated where to input the student/parent’s information and the time/place of the meeting. We increased our Spanish-speaking parent presence at school meetings.

ESL students also participated in our other attendance implementations. Of the 17 students involved in attendance groups, five were in the ESL program (though they were level two or higher to ensure they could participate in discussion/activities). In addition, about 1/5th of students who reached 4 unexcused absences were in the ESL program (29 of 174). The counselors spoke with them individually to discuss their attendance as well.

Though none of these implementations focused on Closing-the-Gap are traditional lessons or groups, they were instrumental in helping us communicate with our ESL families. Attendance concerns for ESL students drastically decreased. From accounting for 16% of students with excessive absences in 2015/16, the ESL population accounted for only 8.3% of students with 7+ unexcused absences in the 2016/17 school year. This means that far fewer of our ESL students and parents were referred to a judge for truancy, especially when it was unnecessary to do so. We will use this data to advocate for our program and ensure we continue to have an on-site interpreter, if not asking for more hours or a second interpreter that speaks another prevalent language. In addition, due to the helpfulness of the translated attendances letters, we plan to ask our ESL County Program to provide translated versions in other languages as BMS educates students speaking 23-27 different languages at any given time.

Goal: By June 5th, 2017, the number of students in the ESL Program who reach 7+ unexcused absences will decrease by 40% from the 2015-2016 school year, from accounting for 16% of students with 7+ unexcused absences to accounting for 9.5% or less of students with 7+ unexcused absences.

Target Group: All students in the ESL Program

Data Used to Identify Students: Attendance data

School Counselor(s): Nicole Smith, Roshonda Ballard, Morgan Brannan, Darin Freeman

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): Mindsets: 3, 4, 5, - Behaviors: LS-4, LS-9, SMS-1, SMS-6, SMS-7, SMS-8, SMS-9, SMS-10, SS-1, SS-3, SS-6, SS-8, SS-9

Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: Interpreter present for all Spanish speaking registrations, interpreter present on campus 4 hours a week to call home, creation of Spanish absence note template, creation of Spanish attendance meeting template, increase bilingual student aide presence. Attendance groups, individual meetings once reach 4 unexcused absences, attendance meetings w/ parent and student at 5 and 6 unexcused absences.

Process Data (Number of students affected): Approximately 75 students

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): Perception Data is somewhat difficult to collect with this population as communication is the main issue. However, we were able to collect data from our higher level students. Post Test Attendance Group Data from ESL Students: - Could accurately answer why it was important to come to school every day - 70% - Could list examples of excused absences - 100% - Could state proper procedure of what to do when absent - 100% - Could explain what happens when you have 7 unexcused absences - 100%

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): ESL Students accounted for 16% of students with excessive absences in 2015/16. ESL students accounted for 8.3% of students with 7 or more unexcused absences in the 2016/17 school year. ESL Students accounted for 28% of students with 4+ unexcused absences in 2015/16. ESL students accounted for 17% of students with 4+ unexcused absences in the 2016/17 school year.

Implications: We met our closing the gap goal by reducing how much the ESL Population accounted for excessive unexcused absences. This also contributed to helping achieve our program goal. We focused specifically on reducing the number of students with 7+ absences but as our individual counseling interventions begin at 4 unexcused absences, we also evaluated those data indicators to see if we were effective in reducing overall unexcused absences or just reaching 7+ (but may have still had many students with 5/6 unexcused absences). Outcome data reflects that we were able to reduce unexcused absences overall in addition to the number of students reaching 7+.The selected interventions created to specifically address this population, though not typical programs to address Closing the Gap goals, addressed the unique limitations that come with having a large population of non-English speaking students and parents. These implementations will continue in future years even if we do not choose this as a closing the gap goal again. In addition, we plan to contact our county level interpreters in an attempt to create absence note templates and letters home in a variety of other languages in addition to Spanish, as we have students in our ESL Program spanning 25-27 different languages. We will also continue including ESL students in all typical attendance procedures in addition to the ESL specific practices we began last year.