August 16th, 2014

Perfectly Punctual & Attendance Works Announce Partnership

Attendance Works and LearnLead’s Perfectly Punctual Campaign are pleased to announce a partnership that will allow more schools and communities access to materials and strategies for building good, on-time attendance habits starting in preschool.Punctual Pete

For years, Perfectly Punctual has helped engage children and families in the importance of showing up to school on time every day. Kids fill out an attendance scorecard every day: circling a star when they’re on time or a rushing clock when they’re tardy. If they’re absent, they circle a sad face the next time they’re in school.

Children wear buttons or stickers with the iconic “Punctual Pete” when they arrive on time. At the end of the week, the scorecard goes home so that parents can reflect on the week’s attendance. Parents and children are regularly recognized for getting to school on time every day.

The simple strategy has paid dividends for preschools and schools in Washington, DC; Baltimore, Delray Beach, Florida, and Marshalltown, Iowa.

Now Perfectly Punctual will provide its materials and suggested strategies on its website and the Attendance Works site for broad distribution at no cost.

As we launch this collaboration, we asked Louise W. Wiener, president and founder of Learning and Leadership in Families (LearnLead), to reflect on how she came to launch the campaign and link her work to ours. Here’s what she wrote:

There are 3 pivot points in the almost 15-year evolution of LearnLead’s Perfectly Punctual Campaign:

1) An “aha” moment with union leaders.

2) Meeting Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang and learning about data-driven!

3) Experience in Baltimore and with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading sites in Delray Beach, Florida, and Marshalltown, Iowa.

The first big “aha” came as Learning and Leadership in Families, a nonprofit organization that translates research into practical playful activities for parents and teachers of young children, worked with a union leader on its board (Don Cash, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 400) to find a way to integrate our shared commitment to strengthening communities and families. (Our working title for this shared exploration was COIE – Community Organizing for Informal Education….how’s that for catchy!)

One day one of Don’s colleagues stormed into a meeting and all but exploded. ”You know the biggest cause of job loss? It’s not showing up or not showing up on time, and I’ll be darned if we can do anything about it!” There it was – the nugget we sought. Attendance is the two-generation continuum that supports or undermines success at work and success at school.

The earliest iterations of the Perfectly Punctual Campaign (2000-2005, DC) had no scorecards, but each week a LearnLead staff member took a picture of all the children classroom by classroom who had been Perfectly Punctual that week. The pictures were hung in the school entry and became a focal point for families. “Why isn’t my child’s picture there?” was music to our ears. Change was on its way.

In 2009 NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) sent Hedy Chang information about the Perfectly Punctual Campaign. About the same time the Institute for Educational Leadership put each of us (Hedy and me) on the National Advisory Committee for Linkages, an initiative to strengthen the continuity and education transitions from birth through age eight.

Present Engaged and Accounted For, Chang’s seminal report on early chronic absence with researcher Mariajose Romero, was hot off the presses, and she was about to launch an initiative that would become Attendance Works.

Romero reviewed Department of Education data to explore the relationship between tardiness and absence and found that children who were “chronically tardy” (10%) in kindergarten, were 10 times more likely to become chronically absent in kindergarten and in first grade, and three times more likely in 3rd and 5th grade.

That data, together with the national data from the LearnLead/National Head Start Association survey on tardiness and Romero’s detailed analysis of tardiness in two Baltimore Head Start agencies, provided baseline data for additional work.

The data reinforced my personal belief that prevention is essential, that it needs to start at the outset of schooling, whether Head Start, public pre-K, or some other early childhood program and continue through the transition into kindergarten and first grade. It also needs to emphasize the positive. To me, positive reinforcement is relevant across the board, but in early childhood it’s an imperative.

Changing hearts and minds and habits – requires high visibility, easy to remember mottos, and the engagement of all the stakeholders. With the motto On-Time On- Target for Success, the scorecard and the PPC button, we began to test ideas in Baltimore, chosen thanks to our existing relationships and the opportunity to integrate into the Baltimore Student Attendance Collaborative. We also connected to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and began working with some of their communities focused on improving third grade reading

Over time the smiling clock on the PPC button morphed into Punctual Pete and turned bilingual and, in some communities, trilingual. We added visibility symbols like “business cards” identifying when children were expected and when they were late at each school, various parent engagement and family programs, professional development, surveys and other materials to stimulate one or another of the many stakeholders involved in consistent on-time attendance.

Many different approaches and styles of implementation can be effective in supporting consistent on-time attendance. We think these observations, however, may be universal.

• Introducing a little playfulness around the important life-skill of showing up and showing up on time is powerful and important. Whether Punctual Pete, your preschool/school mascot, or some other vehicle introduces warmth and playfulness, attendance campaigns need a smile.

• Success at changing habits starts with daily engagement and recognition of children punctuated with special recognition weekly. For a preschooler and kindergarten child, a week is a long time; a month can seem more like an eternity.

• A little competition seems to go a long way. Whether looking at classrooms within a preschool, grade levels within an elementary school, or competition across schools participating in Attendance Awareness Month or the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a little competition often stimulates results.

We are honored to provide the design of the scorecards and buttons/stickers free for downloading through Attendance Works and the LearnLead websites. We hope you’ll share your experiences on our Perfectly Punctual blog at so we can all learn from each other effective ways to support school readiness and school success by reducing chronic absence.

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