REVISED SECTION The gap addressed this school year was identified by examining our school profile, improvement plan, and last year’s attendance reports. As indicated on our school profile, an achievement gap was the disproportionate number (27%, or 35 students) of third graders who did not pass the state standardized Reading assessment in 2016-2017. This number was significant when compared to other grades, with only 7% of fourth graders and 15% of fifth graders not passing Reading. Additionally, the failure rate of these third graders was higher than third graders in the two previous years, with only 11% of third graders failing Reading in 2015-2016 and 17% of third graders failing Reading in 2014-2015.
In disaggregating our data, we noticed that in 2016-2017 third graders had the second lowest average daily attendance (95.70%) with only Kindergarten having had lower. According to the 2012 article, “The Importance of Being in School: A Report on Absenteeism in the Nation’s Public Schools” by Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes, attendance strongly affects standardized tests scores and closing gaps in achievement will not be possible without considering absenteeism. We believed we could positively affect academic outcomes by eliminating barriers to learning related to students’ school avoidance.
Interventions were identified through evidence-based research and teacher input. Our research utilized information from Attendance Works, a leading national organization providing resources and tools to reduce absenteeism through a tiered approach to improve attendance. Within the tiered approach, we focused our activities and interventions on those that align with our role, and unique training and expertise in school counseling.
At the tier one level, we delivered curriculum to all students to address school success and job readiness skills in the areas of test-taking, organization, and time management. We also participated in weekly attendance team meetings with our administrators and attendance secretary during which we monitored school-wide and student specific attendance data.
According to Attendance Works, successful interventions at the tier two level include personalized early outreach and action plans to address barriers and increase engagement. We believed we could address barriers through social/emotional small groups, so we created a teacher survey requesting feedback on small group needs. Feedback indicated all students in the target group would benefit from participating in either positive self-concept and/or worry/anxiety. Also, we were regular participants in Intervention/Special Education meetings for our identified target group, having participated in meetings for six of the 10 students.
Tier three intervention involved the coordinated response of our attendance team in accordance with district policies. Depending on the number of accrued absences, our team held attendance conferences and interagency team meetings with parents to develop attendance improvement plans and connect families with supports/resources.
After implementing new district changes to attendance policies this year, our team has a better understanding of the process and will work to implement them with more efficacy next school year. The attendance team has also discussed adjusting our meeting schedule as we found the previous time was often double-booked with other needs, preventing us from devoting the time needed to discuss each situation and plan of action.
In the future, we plan to add an item on the student perception survey to measure students' application of coping skills when faced with a problem (B-SM7.)
Data indicates these interventions help target the identified ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors because students who participated were shown to have a sense of belonging (M3) as evidenced on the post-test by an average rating of 3.30 (Agree) for the statement "I like school," and 80% of students decreased total number of absences from the previous year. Interventions also increased students’ positive attitude toward work and learning (M6) as evidenced on the post-test by an average rating of 3.50 (Agree) for the statement “Going to school is important to me,” and an average rating of 3.90 (Agree) for the statement “Being successful in school is important.” Similarly, data shows that students developed positive relationships with adults (B-SS3) as evidenced by 3.50 (Agree) for the statement “There is an adult I can talk to.” As described above, the addition of a coping skills item on the student perception survey will further target B-SM7 in the future.
Given the positive data results, we plan to continue all the interventions we provided. We hope to refer students from this group for participation in our school's Check-in/Check-out program next school year. We will offer staff development on effective strategies for building positive relationships, and will be available to mentors to consult on individual student needs/concerns.