The vision of the School Improvement Plan (SIP) at Carroll Magnet Middle School (CMMS) includes the belief that every student is uniquely capable and deserves to be challenged and engaged in a relevant, rigorous, and meaningful learning each day. We believe that students who attend school regularly are much more likely to be a part of this challenging, relevant, and rigorous work and will therefore be more successful. We meet with our Student Services team at the beginning of each school year to examine and discuss absentee data as well as specific students who tend to be absent regularly. Each member of the Student Services team contributes valuable information such as our nurse who informs the team of those students who have suffered from chronic illnesses, concussions, etc. as well as our social worker who contributes information regarding our McKinney Vento Students who have been displaced. We noted that absentee trends included students accumulating an increasing number of unexcused absences as opposed to overall absences. Because increasing attendance is such a vital part of increasing student achievement according to research studies conducted by Attendance Works we created our initial program goal to reduce the number of students with 15 or more unexcused absences to aid in closing the achievement gap.
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, we identified students who had missed 15 or more unexcused absences in the previous school year. We utilized data from the attendance report generated from our PowerSchool system as well as incoming data from our feeder elementary schools for our 6th-grade population. There were a total of 49 students identified with chronic unexcused absences (sixteen 6th grade students, seventeen 7th grade students, and sixteen 8th grade students) targeted to receive interventions. Our program goal was to reduce the number of 49 students by 15%. We developed this SMART goal according to attendance trends over the last 3 years of student attendance showing growth by an average of 13%.
CMMS school counselors developed a daily attendance check-in system with students assigned to their grade level. Within the 1st month of school, all counselors conducted whole group core curriculum Counselor introduction lessons wherein we stressed the importance of attendance and how academics are directly affected. We conducted small attendance groups to identify students’ reasons for missing school, develop goals, and create plans to overcome barriers presented that students felt kept them from attending. In the initial survey with our small groups, counselors found that 43.5% of those students rated their enjoyment of school as 3 on a Likert scale. 52% of those students also rated a level 3 for their belief in their ability to do well in school. We as counselors believe that these ratings have a direct correlation with student motivation in attending school regularly. In small groups, we also conducted a survey to find out students’ reasons for missing school. 25% reported that they overslept, 18% reported that they were ill but did not turn in a note to excuse their absence, and 15% reported that there was a lack of motivation for attending school. Counselors worked with these students to address these concerns. In addition to individual and small group sessions, school counselors also worked collaboratively with our school social worker to conduct home visits for students who began to show patterns of consistent absences again in the 2017-2018 school year. There were 2 students on our case load who suffered from severe anxiety and had both previously been retained due to chronic absences. Our Student Services team met monthly to update and review attendance data and to send home truancy letters as needed for students who continued to develop chronic absences.
With the implementation of interventions and working collaboratively with Student Services staff members, the number of 49 targeted students was reduced to 29 students, thus meeting our initial program goal for the 2017-2018 school year by reducing the number of students by 60%. Sixteen 6th graders were reduced to 11 students, seventeen 7th graders were reduced to 9 students, and sixteen 8th graders were reduced to 9 students. Looking ahead we will continue to implement small groups, core curriculum, and checkins as interventions since they helped to produce such great success and also helped students to overcome barriers to learning as indicated in small group sessions. We will also meet with administration to create a school-wide attendance initiative to provide absentee awareness to the whole staff and incentives/rewards for students who attend school.