Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

December 7th, 2015

How Home Visits Contribute to Better Attendance

Natina Kaih admits she did not want a teacher visiting her home. She was embarrassed by the rough neighborhood where she and her children lived and by the stench of urine in the halls of her apartment building. She didn’t want another person judging her.

So when her Washington, D.C. elementary school offered a home visit, she declined. But her children nagged. The other Stanton Elementary students who had visits from teachers had their pictures posted on the bulletin board. Finally, Kaih relented. When teachers for two of her children arrived at her apartment, they played with her children, and they played with her cat. They asked her what she hoped for her children and how the school could help.

“I didn’t feel looked down on. They didn’t talk at me, they talked with me,” Kaih told educators and advocates gathered last week at the U.S. Department of Education. That first home visit, she said, led to deeper engagement in her children’s education, and it led to better attendance.

“It made it easier to want to send my kids to school, because they were enthused about going to school,” she says.

Kaih and her children are part of an ambitious home visiting and family engagement partnership between the Flamboyan Foundation and 27 D.C. public elementary and charter schools. The Family Engagement Partnership, which builds on the work of the Sacramento-based Parent Teacher Home Visit Project and on the Education Department’s Parent Engagement Framework, also includes academic meetings updating families on their children’s progress and activities for learning at home.

A study released this fall by Johns Hopkins University researchers shows that the approach is having a positive impact: Students whose families receive a home visit had 24 percent fewer absences – or about three fewer days – than similar students who did not receive a home visit. The students with home visits were also more likely to read at or above grade level.

Kristin Ehrgood, president of the Flamboyan Foundation explains the program’s success simply. “Families are experts in their own children,” she says. “Educators are experts in pedagogy…,” she says. We need a true partnership built on respect and trust.”

The comments came at a gathering hosted by the Education Department as part of the federal Every Student, Every Day initiative. The cross-sector initiative — which also involves the White House and departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice – aims to reduce chronic absence by 10 percent annually. In Spring 2016, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights will for the first time release chronic absence data showing how many students miss 15 or more days a year.

The initiative will include efforts to improve data collection, mentoring and other strategies proven to reduce chronic absence. Family engagement remains key to getting students to school everyday.

“I realized that if I did not had trust from my families, they were not going to send their kids to school,” Heather Hairston, principal of C.W. Harris Elementary School in Southeast D.C., said at Friday’s event. When she instituted the family engagement program, her school saw increases in attendance, decreases in truancy and double digital gain in proficiency.

For Natina Kaih, that first home visit years ago set the tone for her involvement – and her children’s success – at Stanton Elementary School. Her children are now in middle school and reaping the benefits of that early engagement, she says. As proof, she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a folded piece of paper. It’s a certificate showing that her daughter is reading above grade level. “My attitude didn’t change overnight,” she acknowledges, “but it started with that first visit.”



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November 13th, 2015

Virtual Summit Draws Hundreds To Learn About Every Student, Every Day

Hundreds of educators, social workers, administrators and advocates joined a virtual summit Thursday outlining the federal Every Student, Every Day initiative to address and eliminate chronic absence.

Opening remarks came from Deputy U.S. Secretary of Education John King, who will assume the duties of Education Secretary when Arne Duncan resigns at the end of the year. The online summit outlined key steps that states, districts and communities can take to improve student achievement by monitoring and reducing chronic absence.

Two of the nation’s leading experts on absenteeism –Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Balfanz from the Everyone Graduates Center and Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang – discussed the causes of and solutions to chronic absence. Leaders from New York CityGrand Rapids, Mich., and the state of Tennessee then spoke about their efforts to improve achievement by reducing absences. The e-summit was hosted by the United Way Worldwide.

If you missed it, or just want to review what you saw:

We included links to research, organizations and tools mentioned in Thursday’s e-suumit and are reviewing the chat for links that participants posted. We’re also preparing answers to questions submitted, but not answered during Thursday’s e-summit.

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November 11th, 2015

Grand Rapids: Strive for Less than 5

Thursday’s virtual summit will feature a segment on how Grand Rapids, Michigan, has reduced chronic absence by 25% with a simple actionable challenge.

With more than a third of Grand Rapids Public Schools students missing nearly a month of CHALLENGE_5_logoschool every year, educators and community leaders knew they needed to turn around school attendance. Their response was a simple, actionable challenge to reduce absences for all students, combined with increased attention to data and support for students and families with serious barriers to getting to school. Over the past three years, these efforts have helped reduce chronic absence rates by 25 percent and engaged the entire community.

Grand Rapids Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal credits a community-wide approach for attendance improvements. “It does take a village, and I hate to say that because people say that has become such a cliché,” she said. “But really that has been the secret for the Grand Rapids Public Schools. The village answered the call.”

Grand Rapids’ campaign, a partnership between the school district and the Believe 2 Become initiative, builds off the training and professional development provided by Attendance Works. It also complements a broader, regional initiative led by the Kent School Services Network (KSSN) involving community schools in several local school districts.

A key piece of the Grand Rapids attendance improvement strategy is a campaign delivering a consistent message to all students. It’s called Challenge 5, and it urges students to strive to miss fewer than five days of school each year. The message appears in both English and Spanish on posters and stickers at school, on billboards along the roadway and yard signs around town. A giant leaderboard for Challenge 5 sits just inside every school, giving a monthly update on how each grade is doing on the challenge. Faith leaders talk about attendance. So do other community partners.

“It’s critically important that children and family hear a consistent message across the community,” said Chana Edmond-Verley, senior program officer of Believe 2 Become, which partnered with the school district to launch Challenge 5. “Think about it as a child. If my mother is talking about it, and the providers in my summer program and my afterschool program, even in my church and in my school – if we’re all on the same message about what really matters, then I think kids will know, families will know, and they’ll be able to achieve it.”

The community engagement goes beyond the attendance challenge. Grand Rapids worked with Attendance Works to develop a data-driven strategy for monitoring chronic absence and intervening with students who are missing too much school. Attendance teams as each school keep track of who is chronically absent and reach to students and families to turn the trends around. The teams, which meet weekly, include a worker from the local department of social services and a community school coordinator in addition to the school principal, nurse, attendance secretary and district family support specialist.

Challenge 5 provides both attendance incentives, as well as the unifying theme for agencies and community partners. “The parent engagement office knew this attendance challenge could be a game changer for the district,” said Mel Atkins, Executive Director of Community & Student Affairs for the school district. “When looking at the our data, we quickly realized that coming to school has a direct impact on achievement.”

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