Bend-LaPine School District uses a system called “DART”, that pulls data that key areas such as attendance, which is a predictor of student success. We used this data to determine what our chronically absenteeism rate was and to begin dis-aggregating the data. Research has shown that when students attendance improves, their academic performance enhances, as well as their chance of graduating from high school. We feel strongly that the habit of attending school regularly needs to be cultivated in middle school or younger. We met with our administration to discuss an action plan. We knew we needed to analyze the data to determine patterns of which students are missing school, the times of year they were missing, and the reasons why (illness, family vacation, unexcused, etc.), and design a closing-the-gap plan that would support students in attending school on a regular basis. Our goals around attendance became our school-wide focus for the year.
The implementation of the plan to reduce the number of chronically absent students started with helping students and parents to feel connected to our school because attendance improves when schools engage students and parents in positive ways. We built systems in place through our WEB program where each 6th grade student had a mentor. The counseling team started offering informational parent nights and fun evening activates for students. We considered this best practice in order to help members of our school community feel more connected. In addition, school counselors and student leaders taught meaningful lessons in the classroom, which were intended to foster healthy connections and relationships. Through results of perception data (parent and student surveys), we determined that these were activities that we would continue and expand upon. We continued to develop our PBIS system to make it more robust and developmentally appropriate. We wanted to ensure that it provides positive incentives for students to attend and engage in school. We also reviewed our chronically absent students and identified if they were connected to school. For those that weren't, we met with them to discuss their interests and how we could bring their interests into the school. For example, there was a group of 8th grade boys who were on our chronic absentee list. We brought them in to talk about their connections to school. We realized that none of our clubs or programs included any of their interests. Their main interest was skateboarding. We ended up developing a Skateboard Repair Shop at our school that was run by this group of boys. They spent time during the day in the shop building and fixing skateboards. Their ability to work in the shop was based on their attendance, positive behavior, and passing grades.
Other interventions that we chose were to inform parents about the importance of attendance early on in the year and follow up throughout the year with letters to families that were chronically absent. The letters talked about the laws around attendance, offered data to support reasons why attending school on a regular basis is vital, and gave tips on how to help children come to school. Based on very low results yielded from the letters, we made the decision to move towards personal phone calls from counselors and/or teachers. In extreme cases, a counselor and an administrator would make home visits. Through the personal touch of speaking with families vs. a letter, we were able to gain a better understanding of why students were not attending school and therefore design more appropriate and personalized interventions.
We believe that we were able to address the targeted ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors through our interventions. Due to the outcome data results, we need to reflect on the chosen Mindsets and Behaviors and identify if they are the right ones to target.
In the future, we will need to collect data more frequently to provide interventions that are more directed and prompt to our students that are on a path to attending school less than 90% of the time. We intend to have weekly meetings with our Attendance Secretary to identify any students that she is noticing are consistently missing school. From here, we will reach out to families.
Goal: By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the percentage of students, grades 6-8, listed as Chronically Absent will decrease by 8.3% from 20.3% to 12%.
Target Group: Chronically Absent Students
Data Used to Identify Students: Synergy Gradebook and DART
School Counselor(s): Andrew Krauthoefer, Ashlee Davis, Connie Baty
Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: Tier 1:
School-wide classroom guidance lessons that work to build a positive school culture (Empathy, Positive Relationships, Identity Development, College and Career, etc)
Implement Positive Behavior Interventions Systems and Supports (PBIS) incentives (Golden Feathers, Positive Trait Awards, recognition at assemblies, etc.)
Creating a strong WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) program where 8th grade students mentor and support 6th grade students
Attendance information sent to all families in the counseling newsletter
Tier 2 (106 students):
Counselors and teachers will send messages to students through Google Classroom or email to let them know they are missed at school.
Counselors and teachers will contact the family via phone or email to check in with families that are chronically absent.
Tier 3 (15 students):
Send attendance letters home to families when students continue to be chronically absent.
Individual counseling & parent communication with data-identified students.
Counselors and administration will participate in home visits if students continue to miss school.
Process Data (Number of students affected): 764 students will be affected by some activities.
106 students were initially identified as chronically absent after the first quarter of the school year. Tier 2 interventions were implemented for this group.
15 students were identified as the highest needs as their attendance rate was 75% or below. Tier 3 interventions were implemented for this group.
Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): We Are Pacific Crest School Counseling Pre/Post Survey Results.
703 students completed the Pre-survey, and 497 completed the post-survey.
- More students agree to feeling comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings:
Strongly Agree :
- More students feel comfortable standing up for their peers.
- More students know where to go for help
- More students feel they know how to resolve conflicts.
- More students say they respect differences in others.
- 92% of students feel connected to their peers (M3)
- 78.2% of students feel there is a positive culture at PCMS (M3)
- Students feel they can communicate with their teachers at a higher rate than in the pre-survey
"I can easily communicate with teachers" - Strongly Agree:
Areas for growth:
- Making all students feel comfortable at school.
- Students are still feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed at a similar rate.
- Students feel they are able to make friends at a similar rate.
Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): From September - Mid November, 13.91% (106 students) were considered chronically absent (attend less than 90% of school days).
From Mid November - February, 22.15% (167 students) of students were chronically absent.
From February to Mid April, 22.49% (168 students) of students were chronically absent.
And from Mid April - June, 23.16% (173 students) of students were chronically absent.
Year end 2017-18 year, 23.55% (174 students) of students were chronically absent.
991 days were missed due to family vacations. This was 242 different students. When Family Vacation is removed, our chronically absent student percentage drops to 17.5%. Essentially, about 6% of our chronic absentee rate is due to vacations.
Implications: Our closing the gap action plan to address our attendance goals required us to identify students who were missing school more than 90% of the time. To achieve this, we worked closely with our administration and our attendance secretary, who was able to pull attendance reports for us on a regular basis. By working with our attendance secretary, we were also able to identify which students were missing school due to family vacations, competitive sports, illnesses, or for reasons that were unexcused. This gave us insight as to why students were missing school, which enabled us to know where to focus our attention.
Looking at our Tier 3 student group, students were missing due to issues of anxiety, depression, health concerns, students not feeling connected, and a feeling of a lack of success at school. All of these students were met with consistently, and meetings were held with their parents. In some instances, home visits were completed by counselors. While we continued to provide supports and interventions to these students, the barriers to attendance continued. Based on perception data from these students, there was typically a desire to attend, but the barriers of health or mental health were too much for students to overcome to attend school. We tried to develop alternative schedules and instruction options, which students reported were helpful, but were not enough to get students to attend consistently.
The data suggests that our closing the gap action plan was successful in some areas, such as our PBIS system (based on how many students accessed the incentive programs), the WEB leadership program, and our classroom lessons. In addition, contacting families that are chronically absent on a regular basis indicated to be beneficial because it showed families that we care and it offered more insight as to why students were not attending school. The pieces of our action plan that did not demonstrate success was around sending letters home to families. This simply came down to parents not reading the information that was sent to them. We find it much more effective to have the personal touch of a phone call or face to face meeting. Other data collection that we would like to implement in the 2018-2019 school year is to survey students on what motivates them to attend school on a regular basis and what barriers might exist that prevent them from attending school. Lastly, our post-survey lacked the number of responses we would have liked to see. We will need to find a better way to get participation in the survey in the future. We asked teachers to have students complete the survey during their 5th period class. Unfortunately, not all teachers took time to have students complete it.
The data showed us that 991 days were missed due to family vacation. If we were able to take out this data, our chronically absent data drops to 17.5%. In other words, students who are missing school due to family vacation equals about 6% of our students who are chronically absent. Despite the reason for students missing school, research shows that it is imperative for students to attend school on a regular basis in order to keep up with their academics, reduce anxiety around school, building healthy friendships, and to stay on track for graduation. In order to address this, one proactive intervention that we plan to add during the 2018-2019 school year is to inform parents at the start of the year the research behind attendance rates. We will do this through the avenue of Parent Boot Camps, which we are implementing for families that are new to middle school or new to Pacific Crest. In addition, because we have very high attendance rates during our open house at the beginning of each year, counselors will speak to our parent group during that time about the importance of students attending school.
While we believe the selected Mindsets and Behaviors are important to supporting attendance, our outcome and perception data suggests that these are not the only Mindsets and Behaviors that impact attendance. Overall, our students reported feeling more connected to school and that they knew where to go for help yet our attendance data shows a decline in attendance. More intervention and instruction would be dedicated to student's ability to take responsibility for their education. We would also be directed at Mindset 4: Understanding that postsecondary education and life-long learning are necessary for long-term career success. Since many of our absences are due to sports and family vacations, we need to focus on M 4 so our students and families understand that attendance is a key predictor to success.