Attendance Works News

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 12th, 2015

New Toolkit: Leading Attendance

Snip20150309_1Principals and school leaders know from experience and common sense what research confirms: Showing up for class matters. Leading Attendance, a new toolkit from Attendance Works, equips principals with the templates, tools and messaging needed to reduce chronic absenteeism. It also features profiles of principals who are rallying their staffs to improve attendance. Do you know someone like that?  Nominate them for a profile, using this form.

The toolkit details how principals can:

View the Leading Attendance Toolkit here

Download the Leading Attendance Summary here.


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March 10th, 2015

Attendance Awareness Month Webinars Start 4/15

Attendance Awareness Month starts in September, but planning begins April 15 with the first of four webinars and the release of the Count Us In! toolkit 3.0 providing updated resources for schools and communities. Speakers on the Ready, Set Go! webinar will describe how they rallied their communities to take action. Future webinars are set for May 13, August 12 and September 9.

Last fall, 324 communities nationwide participated in activities calling attention to the importance of school attendance. We hope to enlist even more this year. Don’t miss this opportunity to address chronic absence, an urgent issue affecting our children’s education!

The webinar will provide updated resources for your school or community to use in planning and launching Attendance Awareness Month. Be inspired by the creative ways in which various groups drew attention to attendance and learn from our special guests how they rallied their communities to take action.

While every school day counts, the start of each school year presents an opportunity to lift up an increasingly urgent issue: Too many children are missing too many days of school. Once a child misses 10% of the school year and becomes chronically absent, he or she is headed off-track for college and career.

Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade and are more likely to have poor attendance in later grades. By middle and high school, chronic absence is a proven early warning sign that a student will drop out. This is especially true for those students living in poverty who need school the most and are sometimes attending the least.

Let’s get all our children ready and set to go to school every day!

Don’t miss out!  Register now.


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