Lanier Middle School (2018)

Sugar Hill, GA

Closing the Gap

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.

Goal: By the end of the 2016-2017 school year, there will be a measured reduction in the amount of students missing 6 or more days of school from 41% in the previous year to 30% this year, which equates to a 24% improvement.

Target Group: Students with excessive absences (>6) from 2015-2016 school year.

Data Used to Identify Students: Attendance conferences were held with all students missing 10 or more total days (unexcused and excused) during the 2015-2016 school year. Students that had 6 or more Unexcused absences during the 2015-2016 school year were selected for the attendance advisement groups.

School Counselor(s): Auslin, Diaz, Hyman

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): M2, M3, M6B:LS3, B:LS4, B:LS7, B:SMS1

Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: During the first month of the school year, counselors pull individual students identified on a list as having excessive absences (10 or more days total). Initially, students complete an attendance conference/interview questionnaire that is a self assessment of healthy habits and school attendance. After this, counselors are able to have a meaningful conversation with students about why school attendance is important and what they may be able to do in order to improve their attendance. As well, students complete an 'attendance success plan contract' with the counselor stating a goal and what they can do to achieve that attendance goal. After the student conference, the student is also given a letter informing parents of the attendance discussion with their student. In addition to the student attendance conferences, each counselor reviewed attendance data for their grade level and selected students with six or more unexcused absences to participate in Advisement Attendance Groups. At LMS, all students participate in Advisement groups with teachers once weekly. The LMS Advisement program is developed by the Advisement team and each teacher delivers lessons provided. For our Advisement Attendance Groups however, we modified lessons and included regular discussions about attendance. Part of advisement includes frequent grade checks and progress monitoring with work completion. For our Advisement Attendance Groups, we also included regular progress checks in regards to attendance.

Process Data (Number of students affected): 30 students in Advisement/AttendanceSmall Groups 72 students in Individual Attendance Conferences/ Interviews

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): All students in Individual Conferences/Interviews completed a questionnaire upon meeting with their counselor. Anecdotal data collected from Interview Questionnaires/Surveys showed a majority of students felt that the most common reasons for absences were illnesses, being late for school and family trips. Because the questionnaire is more of a personal assessment of school, health and organization habits, as well as the open ended question format we do not compile answers as numerical/objective data. We do however, as a department discuss the trends we see from our meetings with students.

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): Attendance data from this year showed a 14.7% (7 percentage points) improvement in students missing 6 or more days during the 2016-2017 school year. See attached powerpoint with graphs demonstrating school-wide improvement as well as or specific groups/student improvement.

Implications: Due to the improvement in excessive absences within the group that we interviewed as well as schoolwide last year, we have already been implementing the interview/conferences with students over the last few months that missed 6 or more unexcused days of school last year. We plan to incorporate attendance conferences after our winter break with students reaching excessive absences in hopes to further reduce our absence percentage.