How the gap was defined through data:
The achievement gap we selected was directly related to our attendance program goal. Our school profile data showed that 30% of our student population (267 students) had 15 or more absences (chronically absent) during the 2016-17 school year. According to “Attendance in Early Elementary Grades: Association with Student Characteristics, School Readiness and Third Grade Outcomes, Applied Survey Research, May 2011”, chronic absenteeism can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school. After discussion with other stakeholders and further review of data, we decided to focus on students who had 15-17 absences (49 students). Further disaggregation showed that 24 of the 49 students with 15-17 absences were currently in grades two and five. We chose to focus our closing the gap (CTG) activities on supporting those 24 students. Student absences allow for less instructional time in the classroom. When students are absent, the achievement gap widens and students fall further behind.
Why intervention/activities were chosen:
Our CTG action plan outlines a multi-tiered system of supports. School-wide interventions were in place to support our target group and our school. We held a monthly attendance competition. The class in each grade level with the best attendance for the month received the attendance ribbon and displayed it on the outside of their door. The students were proud to display the ribbon. Having the ribbon on the outside of the door was a great way to start a conversation with parents about the importance of attendance. We selected random months to reward students with perfect attendance for that month to reward them for their efforts. I conducted small groups for all students with 15-17 absences during the 2016-2017 school year focusing on ensuring students understood the importance of coming to school. They set personal attendance goals that we tracked throughout the year. If students met their weekly goals they received an incentive. The students participated in daily morning check in with me. The students earned rewards for coming to school and learned that someone at school cared for them and missed them when they were absent. They also received individual counseling services to identify ways to support their attendance. I held an attendance awareness in-service for our staff in August. I shared previous years data, national data and data regarding absenteeism and how it affects student academic achievement. I went over the attendance policies for our school and reminded teachers that they should be the first contact to parents when students are absent. We implemented a change to our attendance policy that required teachers to call home if a student was absent for two consecutive days to check in on the child and family.
We felt parent interventions were a critical component to closing the attendance gap. I delivered an attendance awareness presentation at our September Parent Night to educate the parents on the attendance policies for the school and the impact poor attendance has on student academic achievement. Lastly, I collaborated with the complex social worker to address attendance concerns. We met weekly to discuss students with attendance concerns and to analyze attendance data. We met with parents of students whose absences hit 15 to problem solve and come up with a plan to help improve their child’s attendance. If needed, we were able to connect them with community resources such as Hawaii Keiki Nurse to assist them with their needs.
How data will help:
End of the year attendance data showed that the 24 CTG students accumulated 238 absences compared to 327 absences the previous year which was an overall decrease of 27%. Looking at the perception data, I am going to change the response scale to include either a three-or-four point scale. This would give us better data. I would like to include at least one knowledge/skill question. Based on these results, I plan to continue implementing these strategies and interventions. I am hoping to service more students next year. If we hire a second counselor, we could offer these interventions to more students and further close the gap on our chronic absenteeism problem. I would like to hold more parent workshops/meetings to educate and help parents get their children to school daily. I will be presenting on the importance of having good attendance at a parent workshop and sending home flyers explaining the importance of attendance and the effect it has on student academic success.