We began by reviewing the school strategic plan to define our program goals based on the school’s needs. As mentioned in Component 3, attendance was an area of identified need, as well as a school-wide area for improvement. In reviewing the data, we determined that we had a group of 39 sixth graders with a higher-than-average number of absences during 1st semester, who previously had not had attendance issues (the average sixth grade student had 3.43 # of absences during that same period). As a result, we developed a Closing-The-Gap intervention to reduce the number of unexcused absences for this targeted group for 2nd semester.
We chose the interventions for our School Success Closing-The-Gap project based on best practices reported by Hanover Research (2016) in Best Practices in Improving Student Attendance, a comprehensive report on successful interventions for chronic absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism, missing 10% or more of the school year puts students at risk. Early absenteeism creates poor habits that tend to become long-term issues if schools do not intervene. Poor attendance in school has negative impacts on literacy, graduation rates, and employability. Best practices for addressing chronic absenteeism includes parent contact, teaching students about excused vs. unexcused absences, providing positive incentives for attendance, establishing attendance contracts and goals, etc., which we then incorporated.
Because our closing-the-gap intervention reduced absences, we realized the importance of addressing attendance even earlier in the school year. As a result, we began monitoring students earlier in the 2018-2019 school year and running new attendance reports monthly, rather than waiting until second semester when students have already accumulated five or more absences. The school counselors are now identifying students as soon as they have two or three absences, and we meet with them individually and contact parent. Additionally, we will provide a large group intervention for students with attendance issues and will follow up with individual counseling sessions. Because we found through this intervention that students often did not know the basic information regarding absences, we have decided to give out this information (legal excuses and excuse note procedures) throughout the school year in every class lesson we teach as a tier one strategy. This is a simple school-wide intervention to put in place to keep all students informed of the importance of good attendance, to address this problem directly, and prevent this gap from developing in the first place.
After examining the pre and post results, we plan to cut several questions from the Pre and Post -tests. We used two questions about truancy court, and we will only ask one question on this topic. Additionally, some questions were a bit wordy and we had to explain it to students; therefore, we will simplify the language of the questions. We could also ask students what their number one reason is for missing school as an open-ended question to encourage insight and start problem solving right away rather than later in the one-on-one meeting.
We will continue to target M6 Positive attitude toward work and learning through our attendance interventions because this perfectly encompasses everything, we want our students to be able to reach their goals. Additionally, we realize from what we learned in this intervention that M 2: Self-confidence in ability to succeed and M 3: Sense of Belonging in the School Environment also support our goal in reducing attendance.
We will continue to provide interventions that target attendance, but we will address this issue school-wide through our core curriculum lessons and we will identify students before they reach 5 absences. During 2017-18, we started the year with a Tier 3 intervention and targeted students who were chronically absent students the previous year by providing small groups at each grade level. By the spring semester, we had become aware of many students struggling with attendance, so we decided to intervene with our School Success Closing-The-Gap project. The data analysis showed the intervention was successful in reducing chronic absenteeism by 40%, but it also helped us to realize that students needed information and interventions earlier. We will run attendance reports on a monthly basis from the beginning of the year, thereby addressing absenteeism early and often.