The narrative has been revised to reflect the feedback received by the reviewer to include a summary of the perception data collected and more details regarding future implications. A chart that was inadvertently missing from the original application summarizing the perception data has been uploaded as a supportive document for this session.
How the gap was defined
Early in the 2016/2017 school year I received an email from the pupil personnel worker (PPW), a county staff member that serves as an advocate for students and consultant to principals, staff, and parents to reduce barriers that inhibit school success. The email indicated a decrease in attendance for 58 students during the first month of school. The number of days absent on the report ranged anywhere from 5 - 17 days absent during that time period. This prompted me to take another look at the attendance and I discovered the overall attendance rate of 95% for second grades students in 2015/2016 had slipped to 93% at the beginning of the 2016/2017 year. We felt that if we could identify those students experiencing attendance concerns and offer support, we would be able to raise the overall attendance rate for the entire grade level and for the school as well.
Why the Activities /Inventions were Chosen
In order to change behavior, we believed it would be important to determine the perceptions about regular school attendance for these students and their parents. Our plan was to involve parents and teachers in the process. We know that parents are responsible for ensuring regular school attendance and the teachers would be able to alert us of when the students were absent even before the monthly attendance report was available. As a result, we surveyed the selected students and their families. Even though all the parents received the survey, only 37.5% or N=3 parents returned the questionnaire.
In order for the students to understand the impact of what we were trying to accomplish, we shared their attendance data. We wanted them to understand the goal was to decrease the number of days absent by 20%, so we clarified attendance expectations and goals. To drive the point even further, we made no distinction between excused and unexcused absences. We wanted students to understand that any day away from school has consequences. Parents were also reminded, via letters of the importance or regular school attendance and sent quarterly updates on their child’s progress.
Weekly student check-ins were used to determine why students were absent and to remind them to bring a note indicating the reason. Incentives were offered for students who met the monthly goal. Those students who met quarterly goals were allowed to have lunch with the counselor. The time was used to discuss the importance of good and regular attendance and how participating in a school community leads to good citizenship. The final steps were to monitor the monthly attendance report, communicate with parents, and follow-up with home visits as needed.
How data will help
The data we collected proved invaluable. The data indicated that for each of the 5 questions asked on the survey, students average perception increased by 64.4% and for parents81%. We determined that students and their parent’s perceptions about school attendance changed significantly as a result of the intervention. Prior to the intervention, parents believed that excused absences were not a problem as long as the work was completed, however, they learned that their commitment to school attendance sends a message that education is a priority. The objective of the intervention was not only to get the identified students to school every day and on time, but also to help the parents understand the importance of good attendance for academic and social development. The result indicate that this was successful for the students. The second-grade students increased their attendance by 26.3%.
We learned that by targeting children with severe attendance problems, while at the same time monitoring the rest of the student body, we were able to increase the overall attendance rate for the school by .013%. Moving forward, we will use this intervention for students with attendance concerns and find additional ways to not only to recognize them, but to also recognize the parents for the part they play in ensuring good attendance. We believe the success of our students was directly related to increased parent involvement, by changing parent perceptions we helped them understand the importance of regular school attendance.