Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

March 27th, 2015

Principal Profile: Adamant about Attendance

For an under-resourced school struggling with low attendance rates, the challenges can be great. But when you’re a tight-knit campus that is “adamant” about attendance, you go to equally great lengths to turn things Snip20150206_6around.

“Adamant” is how Principal Enomwoyi Booker describes the commitment to improving attendance at PLACE @ Prescott Elementary in West Oakland. Over the past four years, this focus has created a remarkable shift; since 2009-10, chronic absence at PLACE has dropped from 31% to 16%.

Among the school’s predominantly African American students, progress has been even more dramatic, with rates down from 32% to 13%. Booker believes improved attendance has had an impact on academic achievement. In 2012, PLACE’s California Standards Test (CST) scores in Science showed some of the greatest improvement in Oakland, with an 11 percentage-point increase in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced.

How did PLACE @ Prescott make these strides?

Personalized outreach

Booker and the school’s teachers and support staff have gone the extra mile to connect with families of frequently absent students. Home visits show families how important the school considers attendance and often lead to solutions that make a big difference. In one case, the school wound up buying an alarm clock for a tardy student’s older sibling so he could help his brother get to school on time. “We have these conversations on the porch, or through the car window at the curbside if a child’s dropped off late to school,” explains Booker. “We break it down, figure out how we can help, then do whatever it takes.”

Family to family

Booker says other parents have also been essential partners in the attendance cause. “We have great parent leaders and liaisons who’ve been able to explain to other parents how important regular attendance is,” says Booker. On a campus like PLACE with several long-time staff and so many families that know each other, “teachers and parent leaders have gained trust in the community, and families will connect with each other to make sure kids are at school on time. There’s always somebody who can help somebody else out.”

Sharing data

Just as all parts of the school community share the job of doing outreach around attendance, they also share the data. Truancy and chronic absence lists are used school wide, for coordination of services, individualized student plans, and after-school participants. In this way, PLACE @ Prescott has integrated attendance work across the school.

On-site health services

As in many Oakland schools, health factors – especially asthma – are a major barrier to attendance at PLACE. To address this, Booker says, “We try to offer as many support services here as we can.” The campus hosts a monthly Breath Mobile for students with asthma, plus a dental clinic and vision screening. If students are missing chunks of the day due to doctor appointments, teachers encourage parents to schedule appointments at the very beginning or end of the day whenever possible.

The long road to school

Twenty percent of PLACE @ Prescott students live outside the immediate neighborhood, making transportation an issue both daily and during registration time. To spare families a trip to the District offices, PLACE arranges for on-site enrollment during the summer so that kids are squared away before the first day of school.

Excitement as incentive

While PLACE honors students with perfect attendance in a hallway photo display and with certificates, Booker says the real key is the school’s culture and curriculum. “It’s a calm, warm, inviting place,” she says. “Kids are excited about learning, and we offer as many opportunities as we can for kids to have different experiences. That’s also a draw. We’re a STEM school, with hands-on science, and kids are excited about that. They don’t want to miss school because they might miss out on science or our arts program. They want to be here.”

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March 3rd, 2015

3/17 Webinar: Chronic Disease and School Attendance

Tuesday, March 17, 2015:  Connecting Chronic Health Conditions with School Attendance: Improving Data Collection and Use (11 am PT / 2 pm ET). National Association of Chronic Disease Directors.  Register here.

This webinar highlights the relationship between chronic health conditions and absenteeism and the collection and use of attendance data in the management of chronic conditions in schools.

Speakers, including Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang, will discuss absenteeism including health-related absences as a barrier to learning, share information and examples on data collection and use in identifying and tracking students with chronic conditions and demonstrating reduced absences through efforts that improve student health, and offer guidance to begin work in this area.

In addition, the webinar will feature innovative projects by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The state’s school health project will present on the development of a Healthy Schools Dashboard to report integrated data.

The Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) will discuss its incorporation of absenteeism data from all of the state’s public school systems and how these processes can apply to state health department-led efforts targeting chronic conditions in schools.

  • Presenters:  Hedy Chang, MPP, Director, Attendance Works
  • Nancy Dube, MPH, RN, President, National Association of State School Nurse Consultants and School Nurse Consultant, Maine Department of Education
  • Shirley Schantz, EdD, ARNP, RN, Director of Nursing Education, National Association of School Nurses
  • Cheryl De Pinto, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Zachary Faigen, MSPH, Former Biosurveillance Epidemiologist, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

 

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February 25th, 2015

Multiple Measures Should Include Chronic Absence

John Merrow, the respected education correspondent for PBS NewsHour, proposed in a  tongue-in-cheek blog item last week that leading educators and policymakers should sit down to a parlor game called “Multiple Measures.” As he sees it, that’s what it will take for Congress to renew the federal law governing K-12 schools (otherwise known as No Child Left Behind or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act).

Merrow notes that most advocates, Republican and Democrat, want a version of the law that relies on more than standardized test scores to assess school progress. But what should the other metrics be?

We’d like to nominate our favorite measure: chronic absence.

Schools have long used attendance as an accountability metric, but their reporting is typically limited to how many students show up every day (known as average daily attendance) or how many are skipping school (a.k.a. truancy.) These measures are fine, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Daily averages can give you a general sense of how a school is doing, But, they don’t tell you who’s missing too much school or give you any clues to why. Likewise, truancy can identify students who are flouting school rules. But it doesn’t capture those who are missing too much class because of illness, family obligations or suspensions. While these absences are often excused, they still add up to academic trouble.

In fact, research shows that missing 10 percent of the school year for any reason is the tipping point for academic difficulty. The problem starts as early as preschool and kindergarten and continues through high school for many students–at least until they drop out.

Chronic absence is a measure of what proportion of the student body is missing a certain percentage or number of days in the school year. Attendance Works uses a 10 percent threshold, while some state and districts use other definitions. The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights has just started asking districts to report how many students miss 15 or more days.

The great thing about tracking chronic absence, is that it can both expose the problem and point to solutions. A look at the data can show which grades need the most attention (The transition years of kindergarten, 6th and 9th grades often have the highest rates.) Cut another way, the data can show which neighborhoods are most affected, signaling that transportation troubles or community violence could be to blame. The data can also identify subgroups of students who are more likely to miss too much school.

Another great thing is that chronic absence can often be turned around when schools and community partners work together to build a culture of regular attendance and use their data to diagnose how to help students and families overcome barriers to getting to school.

In New Britain, Conn., for instance, kindergarten literacy scores rose as the school district cut the kindergarten chronic absence rate by more than half. In Chicago, graduation rates went up when high schools started paying closer attention to attendance and other risk factors in 9th grade.

Tracking chronic absence won’t require school districts to collect any new information. They simply have to analyze their attendance numbers in a different way.

While we aren’t sure what will happen with ESEA re-authorization, we know that the conversation about multiple measures offers an important opportunity to educate policymakers about the best metrics for assessing whether students are on track for academic success.

Join us in calling attention to chronic absence, because we know that if students miss too much school for any reason, none of the other investments in improving instruction will make much difference.

 

 

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