“It’s Cool to be in School”: Educators Emphasize Importance of Attendance

“It’s Cool to be in School”: Educators Emphasize Importance of Attendance

The sharp increase in chronic absenteeism over the past few years has led schools and their partners to use an abundance of strategies — including messaging, individual interventions and data analysis — to get students back into the classroom and engaged in learning, according to a report in K-12 Dive.

Federal, state and local education leaders recently gathered at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House for an “Every Day Counts” Summit to encourage families, community organizations, local elected officials, businesses, faith leaders, pediatricians and others to spread the word about the importance of school attendance. 

“Schools cannot do this work alone, and they shouldn’t have to,” says Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee.

McKee said Rhode Island is taking several approaches on this front, including engaging with educators, municipal leaders, elected officials, judges and more. The state’s Learn 365 RI initiative aims to shift learning from the traditional 180-day model to one that provides year-round educational and career readiness opportunities. 

A statewide awareness campaign with the slogan that it’s ”cool to be in school″ features messages from influencers, incentives for strong attendance, and resources for schools. 

As a result, over 90% of schools in the state are reporting fewer chronically absent students year-over-year, and nearly one-third of schools have reduced chronic absenteeism by 10 percentage points compared to the same time last year, McKee says. Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses 10% or more of school due to any reason.

The state also has an online dashboard showing school-by-school attendance with data updated daily. “Anybody who visits my office, they see the attendance dashboard,” McKee says.

Educators at the local level also shared the various strategies they use to boost attendance and engagement.

Virginia’s Richmond Public Schools moved away from punitive approaches to absenteeism to a model that removes barriers to individual attendance challenges, as well as one that increases positive school connections, says Shadae Harris, the district’s chief engagement officer.

Tyree Pollard, director of whole child community partnerships in Ohio’s Columbus City Schools, talked about the team approach the district and schools use to tackle absences. Those involved hold regular meetings to talk about challenges and how to implement student supports. Every school has an attendance goal, which helps create ownership toward those efforts, he says. 

The district also solicited support from community members, such as recreation center managers and pediatricians, in helping to emphasize to students and families the importance of school attendance. 

The U.S. Department of Education is providing resources to increase attendance and engagement, and to help schools find the root causes of chronic absenteeism and explore interventions. 

K-12 Dive

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