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United Way Blog Carnival: How Do We Build a Culture of School Attendance?

United Way Blog Carnival: How Do We Build a Culture of School Attendance?

United Way has joined an exciting partnership working to recognize September as Attendance Awareness Month in communities across the country. The goal of the Attendance Campaign is to increase public understanding of the important role that regular attendance plays in student achievement.

Studies show that missing just 10% of the school year in the early grades can leave many students struggling throughout elementary school. Every school day counts, and everyone can make a difference: educators, afterschool programs, mayors, businesses and parents.

During United Way Education Action Week, we put out a call to action for organizations and individuals to join our Blog Carnival and give their perspective on the critical issue of school attendance. We heard from community leaders and concerned citizens about how we can increase student academic achievement.

So, how do we turn around student absenteeism and build a culture of attendance in every school? Read the thoughtful and enlightening posts of our Blog Carnival participants.

In, Change the Culture of School, Jeremy Thomas argues that we need to take more of a carrot than stick approach in creating a culture of school attendance. He remarks that the solution lies in fostering the creativity of the students. He notes that, “Programs that strive to create an engaging and exciting classroom which allows students to be independent creative thinkers will find that attendance will go up.”

Rebecca Craddock, a Coordinated School Health Coordinator at Bristol Tennessee City Schools and a Committee Chair of United Way of Bristol TN/VA, makes the case that providing a coordinated system of student supports helps students stay in school. In Coordinated School Health keeps Tennessee students in school and ready to learn, Rebecca shares about the strides that the state of Tennessee is making in addressing the non-academic barriers to student learning. Based on her experience, “A student must be healthy physically, mentally and socially to attend school and perform academically.”

In Chronic Absence and Kindergarten, Anne O’Brien calls attention to the importance of data in addressing chronic absenteeism, particularly in the early years. She identifies a variety of ways to boost attendance, from educating parents to celebrating attendance in schools. To get started, she believes that schools need to collect data that informs them on the root cause of absenteeism. If you don’t, she notes “problems in this area might never come to light.”

Jerry Ostergaard talks about the power of incentivizing and rewarding school attendance in To Succeed In School, Students Have To Be In School. He gives examples of schools that are encouraging attendance in creative and innovative ways, such as using recognition certificates or offering prizes for families. Jerry explains that “interclass competition is a very powerful motivator” for creating a culture of attendance in schools.

Mike Durkin, President of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley shares about the work his United Way is doing with Boston Public Schools (BPS) and community partners in Trying to keep kids in school? BOOST their emotional development as well as academic. Their initiative, Boston's Outreach and Opportunities for Successful Transitions (BOOST), is taking a holistic approach to improving school environments by targeting the early warnings signs for dropping out of school, specifically Attendance, Behavior problems and Course failures. Mike explains, “We see firsthand in these schools how a supportive environment can make the difference.”

In From Every Angle: Building Tomorrow’s Leaders, Tarsi Dunlop shares some of the success stories of communities tackling chronic absenteeism across the nation, particularly in Baltimore and Boston. Tarsi identifies the common elements that are necessary to create change, namely respecting the capacity of students to meaningfully contribute to the school and empowering them to take ownership of their academic success. In this way, Tarsi says, “we may see students take the lead in their learning, become the future leaders of tomorrow, today.”

Have a blog post you’d like to share on school attendance? Add the link in the comments section of this post. For more information on Attendance Awareness Month, go to http://www.attendanceworks.org.