Attendance Works News

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 will soon release a model policy 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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May 13th, 2015

New Early Ed Materials for a Strong Start

Attendance in preschool and the early grades can be a challenge. Some children and families face problems with  health, transportation and housing that get in the way of regular attendance. Others simply don’t realize how many days their children are missing and how these absences can add up to academic trouble. Many young children are just getting used to the routine of going to school, and they tend to get sick a lot, leading to excused absences.

But research tells us that, excused or unexcused, these early absences can lead to academic struggle or poor attendance in the grades ahead. Children who miss too many days in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to master reading by the end of third grade.

We’ve found the best approach to improving attendance in the early years is to engage families. Educators can help families overcome the barriers that keep children from coming to school. And they can convey that preschool, Head Start and kindergarten are not drop-in programs, but school readiness opportunities that works best when children show up every day.

We’ve developed some tools to help deliver that message. Please download and share with families:

These materials supplement the Bringing Attendance Home toolkit and parent video on the Attendance Works website. To receive regular notice about new free materials, sign up here.

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