Fifteen percent of students were absent 15+ days in the 2016-2017 school year. When this number was adjusted to discount those who were on an approved vacation or had medical reasons, the percentage dropped to 11%, or 35 students. Of the 35 students, 8 were not going to be present for the 2017-2018 school year. This left a final number of 27 students requiring intervention. Closer examination of these 27 students revealed that 70% were classified as economically disadvantaged (ED). They were then separated into three separate groups for intervention: one that would receive services from the counselor, one that would work with the principal, and one that would be tracked by the school nurse for medical reasons. Once groups were separated, it was found that of the 19 students in the counselor and administrator groups, 84% are considered ED, including 80% of the counselor’s targeted group. This was an overrepresentation, as the district has an overall rate of 52% ED. Hence, a closing the gap action plan was developed.
Several interventions had been used to improve attendance over the years. This includes the Tugboats small group intervention, information presented to parents (newsletters, open house, etc.), school attendance improvement plans, and increased communication with parents. Two delivery methods had not yet been utilized: classroom guidance and individual intervention. Because the targeted group only represented 8.5% of the student population, the counselor and principal decided that an individual approach to those 27 students would be more effective.
Daily check-ins combined with small positive reinforcements were found to be effective in a recent research article (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ963129.pdf). This provided extra validation for the method chosen, even though the counselor would only be using bi-monthly check-ins with monthly positive reinforcements.
Throughout the year, it became clear that the individual approach was the right choice. Students were excited to visit the counselor and principal, earn rewards, and focus on a goal that probably never would have occurred to them without the intervention. Students received encouragement and positive attention when they met their goal. When they didn’t meet their goal, they learned problem-solving and coping skills. Truly, the benefits of this intervention go beyond the attendance rates.
Students showed an overall 22.8% reduction of absences, meeting the program goal to reduce absences by at least 20%. (Note: one of the ten original students moved out of the district soon after the school year started; his data is not included). Five out of nine students met their personal attendance goals. For these five students, a 46.7% reduction in absences was observed. This intervention yielded high results in relation to the amount of time the counselor spent. It required about 2 hours per month of intervention and resulted in 201 total hours of additional time that students spent in class throughout the course of the year.
The counselor and principal, pleased with the results, have decided to continue the intervention as-is for the following school year. In July 2018, they again reviewed and filtered the list of students with 15+ absences and sorted them the same way. They will each target eight students and any “repeat” students switched groups (i.e. if the principal provided intervention last year, then the counselor will have that student in her group this year). All of the 16 students that will receive intervention are classified as economically disadvantaged (100%).
Of the four students who did not meet their personal attendance goal, the counselor will consider running her Tugboats small group intervention. Additional students from the principal’s previous group who did not show progress can also be added. The final missing piece, a classroom guidance lesson for each grade, should also be considered for future programming. All of these elements, along with the district policies and procedures, should assist all students in meeting the targeted Mindsets and Behaviors as they pertain to attendance.