The gap was defined using computer-generated 2016-2017 attendance reports. We disaggregated the excused/unexcused absences reports. While there were no significant differences by grade or gender, there was a significant gap by race. Looking at students with 10 or more unexcused absences, we learned Black students averaged 16.37 unexcused absences, White students averaged 16.95, but Hispanic students averaged 27.03. Improving attendance rates for the target students supported our school’s goal to improve academic performance within subgroups. The Superintendent announced to principals he wanted to increase attendance rates for 2017-2018.
Planning interventions and activities to achieve our goal, we didn’t want to assume we knew the causes of the absences; using best practices, we interviewed stakeholders to gain information—Attendance Clerk, Timeout Room Moderator, Social Worker, Dean of Students, English as a Second Language (ESL) Specialist, Reading Intervention Teacher, two Hispanic students, and a Hispanic parent. The factors stakeholders believe are contributing to high absence rates include parents’ work schedules, lack of knowledge about moving (attendance zones and bus transportation), use of home remedies instead of healthcare system, immigration court appointments, student employment, and undefined district attendance policies. Our best plan of action was building relationships with students and families and providing information in Spanish. We tried to learn about the various cultures and countries the target students represented to guide our interventions.
The data results will help us deliver interventions more effectively because we now realize the power of disaggregating our school’s data. Data made us reassess the ways our counseling program can operate more intentionally to lessen gaps. We’re not sure we’ll be able to measure which of the interventions and activities was the most beneficial. Students and families shared after some of our interventions and activities (see Results Report) that these were some of the first times they’ve felt important and part of the school. We want more non-Hispanic students to get involved with celebrating Hispanic Heritage month in 2018-2019. We’ve planned a daily school-wide quiz. We’ll continue offering interventions throughout the year to reach target students and their families and increase the availability of translated resources.
We’d like to explore whether an increase in the target group’s school attendance resulted in improved test scores and grades. The perception data doesn’t indicate much change between tests; in several instances, there was an increase in negative responses. We’ll use a true/false or yes/no format in the future instead of a 1-5 scale. Because we didn’t translate the pre-test—which we regret—we believe we believe some students’ limited understanding of English led them to simply circle random responses. Modifying Molly Kangas’s 2016 Attendance Counts curriculum (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/) to support the Mindsets and Behaviors (MS&Bs), we created the pre-/post-test and content for the small group.
Using data to target appropriate MS&Bs, we’ll use the perception data and interview responses. We’ll use a pre-/post-test, but will translate it. We’re considering targeting different MS&Bs, such as B-SMS8 (navigating contrasting views held by family and school—returning to school ASAP after being sick) and B-SS1 (how to ask for an excuse note from a judge or court official).
We believe the direct and indirect services offered to support the target students contributed to the decrease in truancy amongst the target students. The rapport built between us and target students resulted in students seeking out counseling services for additional support outside of attendance. Through these relationships, we learned several of the unexcused absences were a result of immigration courts subjectively providing students with excuse notes. Adding general information about court appearances to our attendance presentations may prevent some of these unexcused absences, as families may learn to ask for an excuse note from the court. We also learned several of the absences were the result of a culturally different perspective on healthcare—families don’t always seek a prescription when they’re sick, but instead stay home to rest for several days. This revelation explained why the target students weren’t providing doctors’ notes when they were sick. We’re thinking of ways to collaborate with the school nurse to promote ways students can prevent the spread of germs, stay healthy, and prevent illness. We will continue to collaborate and consult with our ESL specialist and social worker, both of whom speak Spanish. We will try to offer the ESL parent workshop more than once to accommodate more schedules. The small group offered to the target students provided them with a safe space to talk with one another free of judgement and develop relationships with us.