Schuykill County, Pa.

For more information about similar programs, visit our Afterschool Programs page.

The SHINE After School Program decided on a simple goal: improve the school-day attendance of the students who show up for the after school program in rural Pennsylvania.

The results: a school attendance rate significantly higher than similar programs nationally, improved communications with parents and a remarkable collaboration with school teachers that could prove a model for out-of-school time programs.

“They look at us as an extension of them,” director Jeanne Y. Miller said of the nine public and parochial schools where SHINE operates. “I think we’re building the mindset that we’re part of what they do.”

SHINE, which operates across 430 square miles in Carbon and Schuylkill counties, draws from a population largely of low-income students, all of them referred for academic reasons, many of them chronically absent or at risk of missing too many days.

The after school program is part of a continuum that begins at birth with home visits for new families, continues with outreach to struggling kindergarteners and stretches through high school to help students with the transition into college. SHINE also offers professional development for after school providers and local school teachers, emphasizing the importance of tracking chronic absence.

When families sign up for after school, providers visit the home to get to know the parents and children. Parents must sign a contract stressing the importance of attending school and the after school program. SHINE sends a middle of the year letter reinforcing the message. When students don’t come to school, they can’t come to SHINE.

For students who do improve their school day attendance, SHINE offers rewards: a visit to the “treasure chest” for younger students, gift certificates for others. Parents, too, are entered in monthly drawings for gas cards, family dinners or trips to Walmart.

Central to SHINE’s attendance initiative is tracking—and sharing—attendance data. The after school providers receive report cards and attendance reports from school teachers every nine weeks. Providers also track attendance for the after school program and submit it, along with the school district information, to an evaluator. Analysis shows the more that students attend SHINE, the better they do in school and in school attendance.

The success of SHINE’s approach is clear:

  • 88 percent of the SHINE students were regular attendees as compared to below 60 percent nationally for other 21st Century After‐School Programs
  • 93 percent of the students who attended SHINE 90 days or more had exceptional or satisfactory
  • 77 percent of the parents surveyed over the past 5 years said the SHINE program improved school
  • 96 percent of the students over the past 5 years were promoted to the next grade
  • 78 percent of the SHINE students demonstrated improvement in academic performance

 

Miller spoke on an Attendance Works peer learning webinar, featured in this blog item in Education Week. Through a grant from the Charles M. Mott Foundation, Attendance Works is working with state out-of-school time networks in Maryland, Utah and Pennsylvania to explore how after school programs can improve school-day attendance.