How the Gap was identified:
During the summer of 2016, we began to analyze the data from 2015-2016. One of the areas we looked at was the attendance data in the ABC (Attendance-Behavior-Course-Performance) At-Risk Summary Report as well as in the County’s Synergy-Education-Platform. In the Synergy-Platform, we first looked at the ADA (Average-Daily-Attendance) report from the past two years. We noticed that there was a drop in the Total ADA (Grades K-5) from 952.93 in 2014-2015 to 902.52 in 2015-2016. After looking closely at the grade levels, we found that there was an increase in ADA with Kindergarten (14-15) to 1st grade (15-16); however, there was a decrease in ADA for 1st-5th grade. Since the 2015-2016 fifth graders went to M.S. for 2016-2017, we decided to look further into 1st-3rd grade.
From the Synergy-Platform, we also pulled the students who had 10+ absences in 2015-2016 and disaggregated them by grade levels. There were a total of 150 students who had 10+ absences in 2015-2016 and the grade levels were broken down as such: K-34, 1st-33, 2nd-32, 3rd-24, and 4th-27. The students in the ABC At-Risk Report were also reflected in the 150 students who had 10+ absences; however, they were from several grade levels. Since we were also looking at the ADA from previous years, and the Kindergarten ADA increased from 14-15 to 15-16, we focused on the 14-15 1st-3rd grade students because they would be 3rd-5th grade students in 2016-2017. Furthermore, after discussing the achievement data with stakeholders, we felt that it was important to focus our attention on the 3rd and 5th graders for our Closing-the-Gap goal since the Georgia-Milestones would determine promotion for those grades in 2016-2017. As a note, this is the first year that the Georgia-Milestones would determine promotion. The previous years were pilot years.
Why the Gap was important to address:
Regular school attendance helps prepare students for success- both at school and later in life. When students have regular attendance, their grades will often go up and they can feel more connected at school. This is reflected in Mindsets 2-3; having the ability to succeed and having a sense of belonging in the school environment. Students who have high absenteeism may feel unprepared and overwhelmed because they continuously try and play catch up with their work load. In the elementary school, it is even more critical because students are learning to read. That is why we chose to address the 3rd grade students with 10+ absences. It is the time where they shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” and with the Georgia Milestones determining promotion for reading; we felt it was an important goal. In addition, we felt 5th grade was just as important to address because they are getting ready to go to middle school where the work load increases and moves at a faster pace. And Georgia Milestones determines promotion for 5th grade this year as well.
Once our Closing-the-Gap goal was determined, we looked at the activities and interventions to support this goal. Some of the interventions were already in place and part of protocol, however, this year in my core curriculum lessons, I stressed the importance of attendance in my career lessons as it relates to future aspirations and goals; a Behavior-Learning-Strategy. I shared with them that students with high attendance rates are more likely to graduate from high school which then in turn sets them up for a better future. The perception data survey questions were also discussed during these lessons too. The Kids Hope Mentoring Program was another intervention implemented to support some of the students with high absences. Having a caring adult meet with these students weekly also reinforced the importance of being at school. But the intervention that I feel made a greater impact was recognizing the students who had perfect attendance for the month. Here, one student from each grade level was drawn out of a box to have ice-cream with the principal each month. In addition, all the students with perfect attendance scrolled on the TVs for the entire month. This intervention focused on the positive (since we are a PBIS school) and helped the students with high absences see there was also recognition for coming to school.
For 2017-2018, we will make attendance a priority in all the career lessons, not just the promotion grades. And we will create attendance small-groups for students who are approaching 10+ absences and need the extra support.