School attendance records determined that Hispanic/Latino students were overrepresented as the group with the highest chronic absenteeism (18+days absent/10% of school year) for the 2016-17 school year. Through discussions with the SCAC, and further analyzing school attendance data, it was determined that chronic absenteeism was disproportionately a problem among low SES students also, a group primarily made up of students from Hispanic/Latino backgrounds. Having this information, the school counselors set the goal to raise the attendance of chronically absent low SES students by 5%. The thought was that by identifying the barriers to school attendance, and developing interventions that address those barriers, we could help close the attendance and achievement gap between low SES students and those of more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds.
Health problems, extraordinary family circumstances, school disconnectedness, and a lack of understanding of attendance procedures were among the top reasons students failed to attend school regularly (11.1). This information along with ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors (M3, B-LS 4, B- SMS 5, BB-SS 3), guided the activities for our closing the gap intervention. First, school counselors provided a tier-2 group lesson to increase students’ knowledge regarding attendance procedures and the connection between good attendance and academic success. Weekly counselor-student meetings were also held to track school attendance, formulate long and short term goals (B-SMS 5), and for students to create relationships with adults (school counselors) that support success (B- SS-3). Lastly, Student Support Team (SST) meetings were also held for students whose circumstances required more involved tier 3 interventions, such as 504 plans for health conditions, hybrid class schedules, or alternative educational placements. Unfortunately, the goal to increase the attendance of chronically absent low SES students by 5% was not met. The increase was only 1.9%, raising the group average from 85.1% to 86.7%. In reviewing the data, however, we learned that 8 of 17 students changed their status from chronically absent to having satisfactory attendance of above 90%. While the group did not meet the 5% increase as a whole, 47% of total participants students were successful, and therefore some gains were made in closing the attendance gap between low SES students and those of more privileged backgrounds.
While perception data was positive, and most students gained knowledge, skills and positive perceptions regarding school attendance, the two school counselors felt they were unable to thoroughly address the barriers every student faced, preventing them from attending school regularly. Adverse health conditions and low parent engagement were common factors for students whose attendance did not improve. Based on recommendations from SCAC, as well as school counselor best practices, next year we plan to offer evening presentations and meetings with parents to increase their knowledge and help change their perceptions regarding their student’s attendance practices. To increase student motivation, we will offer an incentive program, sponsored by our SCAC community representative for students who increase their attendance and exit the chronically absent list. Weekly counselor-student meetings will continue as they served to raise student perseverance to achieve long and short term goals, and for students to create relationships with adults that support success. In discussions with school administrators regarding students’ gaps in knowledge towards attendance policies, it was also determined that tier 1 attendance information will be presented to all CVHS students at the beginning of each school year.