REVISED: Attendance was selected for LMS’s Closing-the-Gap Goal after reviewing and disaggregating 2015-2016 school attendance data, and establishing a direct connection to our program goals. Attendance data revealed 41% of LMS students had missed 6 or more days of school during the 2015-2016, slightly elevated from the previous year (40%). Based on this information, our closing the gap interventions focused on supporting students with excessive absences (>6 unexcused absences) in grades 6-8, impacting overall attendance rates and improving academic achievement. Research shows a correlation between elevated absenteeism and low academic performance. Furthermore, in discussions with administration about absenteeism, it was requested counselors specifically target these attendance concerns. As a result of the aforementioned factors, we elected to focus our Closing the Gap Goal on students with 6 or more unexcused absences (UEX) and 10 or more excused/unexcused absences (EX/UEX) from the previous school year (2015-2016). The identified target groups of students in grades 6-8, consisted of 72 students with 10 or more EX/UEX absences, participating in individual attendance conferences/interviews, and from these 72 students, an additional 30 students (>6 UEX absences) were targeted, receiving a yearlong small group attendance intervention. The interventions selected were derived and modified from a 2015 ASCA Conference breakout session attended by Ms. Diaz (HotEd (Here On-Time Every Day). In an effort to reduce the number of absences, a multi-tiered approach, aimed to reach the identified students was utilized with the following interventions:
• Three core curriculum lessons were provided to all students, focusing on study skills, making successful transitions to MS/HS, and career exploration. Lessons addressed the importance of attendance as it relates to students’ overall academic and future success.
• Each identified student (> 10 EX/UEX =72) participated in an attendance conference with grade level counselors (6th=35; 7th=22; 8th=11) at the beginning of the school year and completed an attendance conference questionnaire, providing a self-assessment of healthy habits and school attendance. This allowed counselors to initiate meaningful dialogue about the importance of attendance, helping students identify areas for improvement. At the conclusion of each conference, students were given attendance letters informing parent(s) of the conference with their child.
• Each identified student (> 6 UEX=30) participated in an Advisement Attendance Small Group with their grade level counselor. All students participate in weekly Advisement groups with teachers. After counselors reviewed attendance and individual factors related to absences were revealed from conferences (excuse notes not turned in, long-term illnesses or other extenuating circumstances), candidates were selected (6th=12; 7th=7; 8th=11) with 6 or more UEX absences who could benefit from participating in a small group. The LMS Advisement program is developed by the Advisement team and provide teachers with weekly lessons each Wednesday in hopes to foster belonging and school connectedness for students. We modified lessons, providing focused conversation about attendance, frequent grade checks and progress monitoring. For example, in 8th grade, a large attendance graph was completed, and together monthly attendance for each student and for the group as a whole was tracked, providing students a consistent visual reminder to motivate and celebrate attendance improvement of students.
• Individual counseling was provided to identified students, reiterating attendance goals and offering support in other areas of concerns (discipline, peer and adult relationships, and family).
• Grade level counselors attended parent conferences and held SARC (Student Attendance Review Committee) meetings for identified students.
• School-wide interventions implemented through the counseling department, include Kid Talks, RTI, and SSTs, addressing attendance, academic, and/or behavioral concerns with teachers and administrators.
• School-wide counseling initiatives (No Place for Hate, Great Kindness Challenge, Great Days of Service, and Red Ribbon Week) were aimed to increase students overall sense of belonging, promoting a positive school climate.
The majority of students participating in Closing the Gap attendance interventions with grade level counselors showed a decrease in the number of absences in 2016-2017, contributing to the overall reduction in absenteeism as evidenced by our school-wide attendance data. Attendance for students (>6) showed a 14.6% improvement in 2016-2017 (35%), compared to the previous year (41%). The counselors are encouraged by this absenteeism reduction, given the pesky, highly contagious stomach bug that plagued our school last October. It brought with it over 200 students and teachers falling ill for many days and a flurry of media attention putting our community on high alert!
We’ve already begun implementing the attendance conference/interviews with students missing 6 or more unexcused days from last year, and plan to utilize an Attendance Success Plan Contract, formalizing attendance.