Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
November 14th, 2013
This is a guest post from Jerry Lamping, a Green Schools Professional USGBC who advises schools on improving indoor environmental quality.
It’s not surprising that a clean school is a healthy school, or that a healthy school has higher attendance rates. But how can a school district know that its cleaning standards are effective?
ISSA, an international association of more than 6,000 companies in the professional cleaning industry, recently published new standards for schools. The Clean Standard: K-12 establishes a framework for assessing the cleaning procedures and cleanliness of a school’s interior high-touch surfaces. Using a systematic approach based on multiple elements, school districts can now measure the level of cleanliness and monitor the cleaning procedures at facilities.
The connection to attendance is clear.
A recent study on student absences in two Central Texas K-12 school districts found that close to half of the missed days during January and February were related to acute illnesses caused by respiratory and intestinal flu like sickness. Another San Antonio area school district has found that the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) rate for its students can decrease by as much as 2 percent during the same months.2
Besides encouraging students to get vaccinated against the season’s prevalent influenza viruses, what else can a school district do to break the chain of infection, and to keep its students healthy and in school?
Charles P. Gerba of the University of Arizona, studied hand and surface hygiene in schools and found that good hygiene practices can reduce illness and school absenteeism rates among children and adults by 30 to 50 percent. While improvements in cleaning and hygiene of high-touch areas and washing hands can be beneficial to a school’s attendance rate, districts need to know the most effective approaches to reducing these microbial contaminants on high touch surfaces.
The Clean Standard K-12 is based on multi-year scientific research guided by the independent Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) Science Advisory Panel. The study involved thousands of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter measurements from high-touch surfaces that are recognized as posing health risks in schools. These include student desks, cafeteria tables, and restroom sinks and stall doors. The ATP measurements were conducted in numerous schools across the nation to account for potential geographic or climatic variations.
The Clean Standard: K-12 includes the following elements:
- A site survey or building audit (Short and Long Forms);
- An evaluation of the presence of visual deterioration, dust and soils;
- Pre- and post-cleaning evaluations and measurements based on ATP levels; and
- Periodic measurement of bio-contamination or bio-soil loads using ATP meters.5
The primary methods used for a school’s assessment are a site survey and quantitative measurements based on ATP meter readings. The assessment is designed to provide information to show the initial extent of contamination and the level of biological contaminant removal when the surface is cleaned.
Richard J Shaughnessy of the University of Tulsa’s Indoor Air Program, has performed this limited research but has already found a direct correlation between cleaner high touch surfaces and higher student attendance rates. The new school cleaning standard makes it possible to assess the effectiveness of any cleaning regimen, equipment, products and procedures. With this standard, school districts can select a cleaning regimen that is the most effective and can attempt to break the chain of infection that is prevalent during the upcoming flu season.
You might also be interested in Jerry Lamping’s article: New Tools: How Green Is Your School?, ASBO International.
November 5th, 2013
Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang and Maryland Out of School Time Network Director Ellie Mitchell wrote this blog post for the Breakfast Club blog published by the Boost Collaborative.
We often teach our young people to listen to their elders because they are the voices of experience and wisdom. But many times, the best way to get through to a young person is through another young person.
With this in mind, it is especially encouraging to be able to recognize two Baltimore-based youth organizations – Wide Angle Youth Media and the Baltimore Urban Debate League– that are engaging young people in citywide efforts to spread the message about the value of attending school regularly and develop strategies aimed at making it easier for students to get to school.
We are impressed by the work of these young people to tackle attendance barriers, such as inadequate public transportation, with the goal of improving academic achievement for their peers across the city.
For example, Wide Angle Youth Media’s Attendance and Design Team enrolls a group of high school students to produce media campaigns aimed at boosting school attendance in collaboration with several key local partners, including the Baltimore Public School System’s offices of Attendance and Truancy as well as Early Learning, AARP’s Experience Corps, Open Society Institute-Baltimore and Baltimore City teachers.
Wide Angle’s Attendance and Design Team, which launched during the 2011-12 school year, used media advocacy tools to tackle attendance barriers, such as inadequate public transportation, school uniform policies and chronic absenteeism in early grades. An early project included a print campaign, including student-designed posters and messaging, to encourage youth to participate in the Maryland Transit Administration’s Rate Your Ride campaign. Wide Angle’s team promoted the Rate Your Ride program – which is an initiative that solicits real-time feedback from riders via text messaging and online surveys – as a vehicle for youth to have a voice in improving public transportation that would lead to more reliable and comfortable accommodations. Between 15,000 and 18,000 Baltimore students rely upon public transportation each day to get to school, according to school officials. Students often cite late buses and other issues among the reasons they don’t make it to school on time or, sometimes, at all.
For one of the team’s more recent projects, which began last school year, students researched and developed materials aimed at improving attendance in the early grades. Armed with statistics from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium showing that pre-K and kindergarten students have among the highest rates of chronic absenteeism (defined in Baltimore as missing 20 or more days in a school year), the Attendance and Design Team created take-home folders for teachers to use with the parents of their youngest children. The team also created materials to be inserted in the folders, including monthly attendance scorecards, at-home activities aligned with monthly learning objectives (developed in consultation with BCPS teachers), attendance tips, an “Every Day Counts” parent checklist and illness tip sheet. This fall, the folders were given to teachers at 50 city schools and the school system’s Early Learning department will evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative to determine whether to expand the effort next year.
Another student-led initiative, the Baltimore Urban Debate League’s A-GAME (which stands for Attendance and Grades Amplify My Excellence) enlists high school students as ambassadors to serve as youth advocates and school representatives in a citywide campaign designed to create a “community of self-advocacy” that enables students to speak up about attendance barriers and engage city and education leaders around solutions to address those obstacles.
Specifically, A-GAME ambassadors promote good attendance by:
- Convening focus groups to help identify attendance barriers and producing programming (such as poster campaigns, field trips, school assemblies, increased access to resources) to help alleviate those issues.
- Developing messages aimed at supporting ninth-graders’ transition to high school.
- Participating in citywide conversations to represent students’ voices on issues related to school attendance, and
- Planning quarterly trainings at their schools to inform their peers about attendance barriers.
With both of these afterschool programs, students have been key partners in the advocacy effort to boost attendance and improve educational outcomes for all youth. We applaud these youth-led campaigns and their early positive results in engaging young people around the critically important issue of regular school attendance.
Research shows us that students who are involved in engaging, meaningful afterschool programs tend to have higher attendance rates and better grades overall than those who don’t participate in such activities. Given that fact, we see these student-led attendance campaigns as win-win propositions – students engaged in the programs are likely to be in school, and we are optimistic that their afterschool efforts are inspiring others to show up more often for school as well.
To learn more about these programs, visit their websites at:
Hedy’s breakfast –
“I had an English muffin and a latte, generously made by my very supportive husband, Jack, who makes me one every day that I’m not on the road J.”
Ellie’s breakfast –
“I had a bowl of Cinnamon Life Cereal (can you tell I’m a mom?) and a banana and, of course, black Coffee!”
Hedy Chang is director of Attendance Works, a national and state initiative that promotes better policy and practice around school attendance.
Ellie Mitchell is director of the Maryland Out of School Time Network, a statewide collaborative of community members and groups campaigning for expanded funding, more effective policies, and high-quality out-of-school time programming.
October 15th, 2013
Do you have a school in your district that is beating the odds, recording higher attendance rates than schools with similar student populations? If so, do you know why?
Chronic absence data not only can reveal the scope of attendance problems but also pinpoint the schools with the practices and leadership that are making a difference.
Our new toolkit, What Works in Our Community, will help you look beyond the numbers and find out how these positive outliers are bringing more kids to school every day. Through a series of templates, tips for site visits and questions for key stakeholders, the toolkit shows how districts can:
- Identify positive outliers.
- Learn about effective practices that others could replicate.
- Find innovative site leaders who can inspire others.