One of the most important ways to keep students coming to school is the presence of a caring adult. Having someone in the school who is happy to see them when they are in school – and who notices when they aren’t – can make a huge difference. That’s why the power of national service programs is such a good match for schools working to increase attendance.
With the growing focus on measuring and addressing chronic absenteeism, schools are tapping into innovative solutions and additional resources to address the problem. One resource that can help is the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs that address chronic absence, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. More than half of CNCS’s $1 billion budget supports education-related initiatives from birth through early career.
“National service programs are helping to improve student attendance in schools across the country,” said Chester Spellman, Director of AmeriCorps. “For youth, especially our most vulnerable youth, having a strong relationship with a caring adult can make a huge difference. The people power of national service is an important resource that schools can utilize to reduce chronic absenteeism.”
Many schools across the country are utilizing CNCS’s AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs to help reduce chronic absenteeism and ensure students are in school and ready to learn. Each year, 90,000 trained AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers provide in-school and after-school support to millions of at-risk youth. Almost 12,000 schools are leveraging national service programs to meet local needs including kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, attendance improvement, support for low-performing schools and on-time graduation.
CNCS has created an Education Toolkit to help school districts and education leaders learn more about leveraging these resources. The toolkit is a guide for finding the right national service program to meet the needs of students and also explains how to partner or apply for those resources to support student success. It will help you:
- Determine Your Needs: Identify how national service resources can help meet your school’s needs.
- Select a National Service Program: Match your needs to an AmeriCorps and/or Senior Corps program.
- Find a Partnership or Apply Directly: Apply for CNCS resources or partner with nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, city agencies, or mayors’ offices.
In Providence Public Schools (PPS), a CNCS-funded mentoring program is helping improve student attendance. The Senior Corps Foster Grandparent program (FGP) has made a long-term commitment to serving kids in PPS. For example, Young Woods Elementary School had its first FGP volunteer in 1998 when it opened its doors and continues to have them today. Eight FGP volunteers work with students from kindergarten through third grade and serve an average of 30 to 50 students every year. The volunteers are in the classroom four days a week, helping with reading and literacy skills, modeling good behavior, tutoring students and assisting classroom teachers with art and language lessons.
Other CNCS programs provide resources to address some of the root causes of absenteeism and provide a variety of supports that help students stay in school. In Flint, Michigan, the Crim Fitness Foundation’s AmeriCorps VISTA project is creating systems to connect the school administration, parents, social service supports and community members in ways that improve academic and attendance outcomes. It’s also recruiting and managing a core pool of parent, partner, and community volunteers to help deliver programs year-round. Focused on the 11 Flint Community Schools, the project will benefit the students and their families as well as the communities surrounding the school sites. This year 23 VISTA members are involved with absentee monitoring, community and parent volunteer recruitment, and enrichment program creation.
Additionally, City Year recruits a diverse group of young adults to serve as AmeriCorps members in high-need schools, offering support to students as tutors, mentors and role models. City Year AmeriCorps members work closely with students who exhibit one or more early warning indicators — low attendance; poor behavior; or course failure in English language arts or mathematics — which research shows can identify students at risk of dropping out as early as the sixth grade. City Year AmeriCorps members offer support during key transition periods ensuring that more students reach 10th grade on track to graduate from high school.
To learn more about how national service is addressing attendance and other issues in education, please visit the CNCS Education webpage. You can also contact your CNCS State Office or State Service Commission to help you think about how best to leverage national service in your schools and communities.
We’d like to thank the Corporation for National and Community Service for contributing this blog post.