Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

May 22nd, 2015

The 100 Mile Club: Building Healthy Attendance

We’ve written before about the Walking School Bus and how an organized walk to school can improve attendance as it increases health and safety for children.

The good folks of Springfield, Mass., are taking it a step further–or  a few thousand steps further–by challenging students to walk 100 miles in the school year. That’s a little more than a half mile a day. This can be accomplished by any combination of walking, jogging and running.

The 100 Mile Club  is an invention of Elias Brookings School, a pre-k to 5th grade school with about 250 students, most of whom come from low-income families. About 150 of students participate, and the school tracks their progress daily and weekly. Parents have gotten involved, too, often showing up with children to walk around the school.Snip20150515_1

“We’ve noticed a huge increase in our attendance, where students would not come to school before or they would be late,” says school nurse Pam Maynard. “Now they come to school on time.” The chart to the right shows attendance rates for children involved in the program in red.

Maynard sees health benefits as well, especially for children with chronic conditions, such as asthma and seizure disorders. “They don’t feel like the diagnosis they have can hold them back any more,” she says. “They feel like athletes.”

Principal Terry Powe notes, “There’s also research on the connection between kids being active and their academics. And I can say that I truly believe it’s had an impact on our school in that regard.”

Beyond Brookings, several Springfield elementary schools are finding that the walking school board is improving attendance. A blog item on the Reading Success by Fourth Grade website details the progress made at three other schools.





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May 19th, 2015

Getting School Boards on Board

School board leadership is essential to ensuring that schools are paying attention to chronic absence data and intervening when students are heading off track. But not all boards know where to start or how to  calculate the data.

The California School Boards Association 5113.1 Chronic Absence and Truancy on chronic absence and truancy that suggests what roles superintendents and principals should play. While the policy is designed for California districts, it can provide a template for other places.

Snip20150517_2The model policy comes at an important time in California’s efforts to reduce chronic absence , which the state defines as missing 10 percent of the school year in excused or unexcused absences. The state education funding formula approved in 2013 requires school districts to track the data as a metric in the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). But so far, many districts haven’t begun to calculate the data. Attendance Works has developed California-specific data tools – the CalDATT and CalSATT — to help districts and schools crunch the numbers. And we’ve worked with the state Attorney General’s office and Eagle Software to ensure that the Aeries student data system can provide chronic absence data more easily.

Over the weekend, Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang gave a keynote presentation, Reducing Chronic Absence – An Overlooked Opportunity for Raising Student Achievement, at CSBA Directors At Large Joint Meeting in Sacramento.  The 120-plus attendees were part of CSBA Delegate Assembly  drawn from across California. The keynote was sponsored by the Joint Caucus FullSizeRenderrepresenting Hispanic, African American, Native American and Asian American students, as well as counties.

If you’re a school board member, or a community member trying to engage your local school board, see our Frequently Asked Questions and ideas for celebrating Attendance Awareness Month in September.

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April 28th, 2015

Chronic Absence is a Metric in Proposed ESEA

The Healthy Schools Campaign posted a blog item earlier this month, noting that chronic absence is used as a metric in the latest proposal for revising the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We’re reposting with their permission and tweaking a few time elements.

This month, Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released a bipartisan draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In its current state, the proposed bill includes a number of wins for student health.

We spent a few days going through the more than 600-page draft and have identified language in several sections that is supportive of student health and wellness. This language, which is not included in the current version of ESEA (known as No Child Left Behind), aligns with a number of the key school health priorities that we — along with many of our partners and allies — have been advocating for.

The Alexander/Murray draft bill would help advance student health by:

  • Adding chronic absenteeism as a required indicator to school report cards for Title 1 schools (schools with high numbers or high percentages of low-income students). Chronic absenteeism can serve as a powerful measure for students who are academically at risk. In addition, student health issues are a leading cause of chronic absenteeism. We are advocating for the use of chronic absenteeism as a driver of early intervention for at risk students, and inclusion of chronic absenteeism on school report cards would be a key step toward accomplishing this.
  • Clarifying that Title 1 funds (the federal program that provides school funding to support the academic achievement of low income students) can be used to address the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children. Given the significant health disparities that exist in our country and their connection to the academic achievement gap, allowing the use of Title 1 funds to support student health is a key strategy for supporting student achievement.
  • Restructuring Title IV, Safe and Healthy Students, to require that eligible school districts conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify the health and safety needs of their students. In addition, the draft bill allows states to use Title IV funds to build the capacity of school districts and schools to address student health and wellness needs.
  • Recognizing physical education as a core subject, which would elevate the importance of PE and encourage schools to recognize PE as an important part of a well-rounded education.

Education advocates are seeing this as a real, bipartisan effort to update what most consider to be a highly problematic education law. We see this effort as an important opportunity to support the connection between health and learning and are encouraged by the inclusion of a number of important health provisions. For people who care about student health, this is the most significant opportunity we have seen within education reform for creating the conditions of health in schools.


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