The achievement gap we selected to close was identified based on a disaggregation of data directly related to our program goals as well as a directive received from our principal. When analyzing the data, we noticed that we had a large number of students who received 10 or more unexcused absences. More shockingly, the total number of unexcused absences for our school was 2,198 absences for students in grades 6th through 8th. Based on this information, we chose to focus our closing the gap activities on supporting students and providing interventions to improve school attendance. The identified target group of students consisted of 290 unexcused absences for 6th grade students, 667 unexcused absences for 7th grade students, and 1,241 unexcused absences for 8th grade students. By improving the daily school attendance rate, students will have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for academic achievement.
In an effort to close the achievement gap, counselors designed and delivered layered interventions to reach students and parents within the target group as follows:
• Attendance Protocol Training for Faculty – We reviewed the GCPS Attendance policy and procedures as well as the local school procedures. We also included instructions on how to access the documents should they need a refresher.
• Attendance Talk with School Principal – Our principal met with the targeted group of students for the first monthly meeting. During this meeting, he discussed the Shiloh Middle School attendance protocol, importance of attending school, and the importance of goal setting regarding attendance for the school year.
• Attendance Goal Setting Activity – Students signed a pledge to attend school and class every day on time. They agreed to turn in an excuse note as soon as they returned if they were absent. They also agreed to complete all assignments that were missed as a result of their absences. Students set a goal as to how many unexcused absences they would have for the current school year.
• Share Counseling Department Goals with Advisory Council – During our Fall Advisory Council meeting, we shared our attendance department goal and ways we planned to implement interventions to decrease the number of unexcused absences.
• Monthly attendance meeting with targeted grade level group
• Follow Local School Attendance Protocol – (1) Teachers make parent contact at 5 unexcused absences, (2) counselors make parent contact and meet with student at 7 unexcused absences, (3) counselors set up Student Attendance Review Committee (SARC) and Student Support Team (SST) meeting with team of teachers, parent, student, and school social worker at 10 or more unexcused absences
• Consult with School Social Worker regarding frequently absent students
• Monthly rewards for students in targeted group (20/20 Club) who have perfect attendance for the month.
• Share end-of-year results with School Counseling Advisory Council – During our Spring Advisory, we shared the results of our department attendance goal and ways we could improve the success rate during the 2017-2018 year.
Due to the interventions our department put in place for our students, we met the attendance program goal and had a 41 percentage improvement rate. The number of unexcused absences for the 2016-2017 school year decreased to 1,298.
Looking ahead, our department has decided to conduct the 20/20 Attendance Club group during the 2017-2018 school year with students who received 15 or more unexcused absences. It is our hope that focusing on a larger number of unexcused absences will decrease the number of students in the group, as well as decrease the total number of unexcused absences for students in grades 6th-8th. We plan to meet with this targeted group of students for eight consecutive weeks. Beginning in December, we will check in with the students once a month until the end of the school year.