Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
October 2nd, 2013
Working with 40 national partners and literally hundreds of schools and communities, we have just finished the first-ever Attendance Awareness Month! The energy and the results we witnessess exceeded our wildest dreams. From Nome, Alaska, to Del Rey, Fla., from the Hawaiian Islands to the Virgin Islands, we have seen efforts great and small.
Consider the numbers:
- 1,318 people from 49 states and the District of Columbia joined our listserv
- 249 schools and communities from 42 states and the District of Columbia pinned events and activities on the Community Action Map
- 155 news articles, blogs and commentary pieces appeared in media outlets in 28 states
- At least four governors and 20 mayors issued proclamations
- The Count Us In! toolkit was downloaded 13,200 times, and the banners and flyers, 14,700 times
- Our parting message on Sept. 30 was sent to 189,000 Facebook and Twitter accounts at the same moment, courtesy of the folks who participated in our Thunderclap. The message was simple: #SchoolEveryDay = School Success! Let’s make Attendance Awareness Month last all year long!
That’s the message we’d like to leave you with today. Build on the partnerships you’ve developed in September and keep paying attention to attendance. Consider a deeper dive into your attendance data or enlist an attendance team that will monitor students who are missing too many days. Make every day count!
And take a moment to tell us what you think. We’re planning to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month again next year and want to hear your thoughts about what worked and what extra help you could use to make next year even more successful. We also want to get a sense of how schools and communities marked the month. Please, take a few moments to fill out our anonymous survey here.
September 30th, 2013
California Attorney General Kamala Harris released a comprehensive report Monday that shows nearly 1 million of the state’s elementary school students were truant in a single school year, meaning they missed school at least three times without a valid excuse. More than 250,000 of those students were chronically absent (missing 18 days in excused or unexcused absences). Altogether these absences cost California’s school districts more than $1 billion, since state funding is distributed based on attendance.
“California is facing an attendance crisis, with dire consequences for our economy, our safety, and our children,” Harris wrote in the report In School & On Track. ”Truancy and chronic absence occurs in elementary schools across the state, at rates that are deeply troubling.”
We’re delighted with this report for a number of reasons. First, Harris outlines a series of steps that families, schools and communities can take to turn around absenteeism–short of going to court. Too often a community’s first response when a child misses too much school is to punish students and pursue legal action against the truants and their families. While the courts clearly have a role to play, we believe legal action should come only after trying a variety of lower cost, less punitive approaches.
Harris recognizes this and writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed she penned with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: School districts already have the tools, as well as the legal responsibility, to intervene when a child is truant. And it’s clear that intervention helps. Truant elementary students whose attendance improves are half as likely to drop out in high school compared with students whose truancy continues or worsens.
School districts have long taken daily attendance, but they need to use the information they gather to create an early warning system that identifies children who are frequently absent. School administrators should contact guardians immediately when a child is truant and insist on a meeting to find solutions. As needed, schools should connect families with social services, public health and community resources to address underlying problems.
Parents must be held accountable, and law enforcement should support interventions that educate and bolster struggling students and parents. The business community should be enlisted to help create incentives to improve attendance, like rewards for schools and families with improved attendance.
The emphasis on data tracking and on engaging the whole community to intervene with at-risk students and their families dovetails with the approach we endorse for improving chronic absence. The report includes county-by-county breakdowns on truancy and absenteeism rates, as well as how much state aid each community is losing because of absenteeism. Harris’s report also makes a compelling case about why absenteeism and truancy in elementary school matter to law enforcement officials:
Truancy, especially among elementary school students, has long-term negative effects. Students who miss school at an early age are more likely to struggle academically and, in later years, to drop out entirely. One study found that for low-income elementary students who have already missed five days of school, each additional school day missed decreased the student’s chance of graduating by 7%. Lacking an education, these children are more likely to end up unemployed and at risk of becoming involved in crime, both as victims and as offenders.
Federal law allows states to set their own definitions of truancy, and California chose three unexcused absences, creating an early warning trigger for notifying parents and taking action.
The state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has urged school districts to start tracking and reporting chronic absence, which combines excused and unexcused absences, through their School Attendance Review Board (SARB) process. He has also hosted statewide forums on attendance and out-of-school suspensions. At a conference Monday, Torlakson also called for greater use of the chronic absences metric by:
- Making attendance a greater factor in determining the Academic Performance Index, a 1,000-point rating that is widely viewed as the key marker of school quality
- Encouraging school districts to address chronic absence, which is measure of school engagement, under California’s new local control funding formula for schools
- Exploring ways to upgrade the state’s student database to include attendance data. California is currently one of four states that does not include that information.
“I welcome the growing attention around chronic absence, because its implications are staggering,” Torlakson said in a statement released yesterday. Our schools work every day to give students the tools they need to succeed, but it will take all of us—parents, law enforcement, health professionals, and more—working together to be sure students are there to receive them. Every missed school day is a missed opportunity.”
Philanthropy can also play a role, said Bob Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment (TCE), who sat on the panel with Torlakson on Monday. Ross suggested that his foundation could helping convene funders and technology firms to help the state develop better technology to track absences. TCE has already made addressing chronic absence a key outcome for its investments in improving outcomes for boys and men of color. TCE funds Attendance Works’ efforts in California.
Already, there are local examples where law enforcement and schools are working together to improve attendance. In Alameda County, the District Attorney’s office created a school engagement program that links families with case managers to work on the barriers to good attendance. More recently, the prosecutor’s office and the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency created H.E.A.L. — Health, Education and Attendance for Life — to address health-related barriers.
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley wrote in an op-ed that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday:
Attorney General Harris and I share the common and fundamental belief that our definition of public safety includes keeping our kids in school, and preventing those factors that could lead a child, teen or adult into a life involving crimes. As the academic year gets under way, I urge every member of our community to remain vigilant and focused. Let’s work together to keep our kids in school and out of our criminal courts. Not only will every school and every student benefit, but I am certain that our cities will be safer, stronger and better places for all of us to live.
September 19th, 2013
During Attendance Awareness Month, we’re hosting several guest blogs from allies who’s work improves school attendance and student achievement. Colleen Clark, who works with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, contributed this post about how a good breakfast can draw kids into school.
“Other than attention issues that impact learning, students with poor nutrition are more prone to illness and miss more school days than their healthier peers. Our breakfast program has increased the attendance rate of our students. Since breakfast is only served in the first 15 minutes of class, it has also decreased tardiness.” – Teacher, Rhode Island
September is both Hunger Action and Attendance Awareness Month. Surprisingly enough, they’re more related than you might think.
As kids head back to school, educators are focused on how to best ensure students succeed in the classroom and in life. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, along with other national organizations, are working to ensure students succeed and have found that school breakfast can have a potentially dramatic effect on students’ attendance, among other factors.
Research shows that on average, students who eat school breakfast have been shown to attend 1.5 more days of school per year. These impacts have potential long-term economic benefits as well. Students who attend class more regularly, for example, are 20% more likely to graduate from high school. And high school graduates typically earn $10,090 more per year and enjoy a 4% higher employment rate.
Despite these findings and the fact that breakfast is clearly important to helping students succeed in the classroom, barely half of the 21 million low-income kids in the U.S. who qualify for a free or reduced-price school meal currently get a school breakfast. If we increased school breakfast program participation so that 70% of elementary and middle school kids eating a free or reduced-price lunch were also getting school breakfast, nationally we could see 4.8 million fewer school absences per year.
We can close the school breakfast gap and help increase school attendance by creatively rethinking school breakfast. Traditionally schools serve breakfast in the cafeteria before class begins. We’ve learned that moving breakfast ‘after the bell’ can make it easier for students to get a healthy morning meal.
New findings from a national survey released by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign also show that rethinking how we serve school breakfast is crucial to enhancing the educational experience for all. One simple change creates many benefits that go beyond alleviating hunger. Teachers and principals who have breakfast in the classroom say they’ve seen better attendance (57%) and fewer tardy students (49%), as two examples of the myriad of benefits. More than half of teachers report seeing behavior and health improvements in students since implementing the program.
You can help us make a difference in both school attendance and breakfast participation. We’re building a map that paints an unprecedented view of school breakfast programs across the country—how and where the meal is served. Go to NoKidHungry.org/Breakfast to learn more and map your school.