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Clearing the Path to On-Time Graduation: Improving Middle and High School Attendance

Clearing the Path to On-Time Graduation: Improving Middle and High School Attendance. Loujeania Williams Bost GA Middle School Coaches’ Training July 26-27, 2007 Macon, GA. Bare Facts.

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Clearing the Path to On-Time Graduation: Improving Middle and High School Attendance

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  1. Clearing the Path to On-Time Graduation: Improving Middle and High School Attendance Loujeania Williams Bost GA Middle School Coaches’ Training July 26-27, 2007 Macon, GA Loujeania Williams Bost, Ph.D

  2. Bare Facts • Approx. 30% of high schoolers, 20 % of middle schoolers and 14% of elementary students are chronically truant • Unexcused absences increase with grade level. Average unexcused absences peak in 9th grade. • Very few consequences or interventions for missing school beyond a phone call or letter

  3. Bare Facts • 70% of suspended youth are chronically truant in the previous six months • 97% of expelled youth are chronically truant in the previous year. • 80% of dropouts were chronically truant in the past year. • 90% of youth in detention for delinquent acts were truant.

  4. You lose Your Family Loses Your School Loses Your Community Loses When You Skip School – Nobody Wins

  5. What Happens to Truant Youth? • Educational failure/ Poor achievement • Dropout • Poor Employability, work stability • Delinquency and adult criminality • Unstable personal relationships • Poverty • Dependence on public assistance

  6. What Happens in Their Families? • Unsupervised children get into trouble • Parents are called away from work to the school or truancy court • Family conflict occurs due to school absences and lack of academic achievement

  7. What Happens in Their Schools • School disruption • School test scores suffer • Operating revenue decreases • Schools do not make AYP- sanctions occur • Higher dropout rates/ Lower graduation rates

  8. What Happens in Their Communities • Juvenile courts flooded • Daytime crime escalates • Later criminal behavior occurs • Impact on labor market • Impact on property values

  9. Risk Factors Fear of harm in schools or neighborhood Abuse in the home Low academic achievement Substance abuse Lack of parental involvement in school or homework Health problems Protective Factors Self esteem Positive school attitudes School attachment Activities such as sports, clubs and volunteer work Sense of purpose in life Positive attitudes toward police officers Factors Impacting Truancy(National Center on School Engagement, 2006)

  10. In Schools that Make Gains in Attendance • Teachers know students well • Teachers have high expectations for students, which often leads to high expectations within students • Teachers foster critical judgment and problem-solving skills in their students

  11. In Schools that Make Gains in Attendance • Teachers use a broad range of strategies to engage their students • Students report feeling safer in their schools • Accountability is strengthened among parents, students, and teachers

  12. Components of Successful Programs • Include special attention to health and special education needs • Use data to drive decision-making • Involve community and business • Focus on school transition years • Include public awareness activities • Include meaningful parent involvement

  13. Components of Successful Programs • Provide a balanced continuum of incentives and sanctions • Focus is on prevention • Emphasize early warning and intensive intervention • Provide a continuum of strategies • Provide alternative options to court

  14. Alternatives to Court • Youth Court • Mediation • Quasi-judicial proceedings • Truancy workshops • Knock and talks

  15. School Based Strategies • Attendance recognition awards • Letters/voice/e- mails to parents • Catch up classrooms or tutoring • Student Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) • Class letters home

  16. School Based Strategies • School climate programs (school involvement, anti-bullying, tolerance activities) • Attendance specialists or coaches in buildings • School support programs (psychological services, tutoring, social work services, school based health centers).

  17. School Based Strategies • Check & Connect • Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) • School support programs (psychological services, tutoring, social work services, school-based health centers). • Good Attendance Campaigns • Increase student engagement in school activities

  18. Local Action Where do we start? • Know your attendance laws, local policies & their inconsistencies • Develop a strategic plan across agencies • Adopt promising practices that “fit” locally • Focus on attendance and engagement, not just truancy

  19. Local Action Where do we start? • Create both incentives and graduated sanctions • Involve students and parents in planning programs to improve attendance and engagement • Take baselines and track progress • Avoid “Killer” policies

  20. Strategies that Help • Create culture which says Attending Everyday Matters • Every Absence Brings a Response • Positive Social Incentives for Good Attendance • Data tracking at teacher team level

  21. Strategies that Help • Two or more unexcused absences in a month brings brief daily checks by an adult • Attendance Team (teacher, counselor, administrator, parents) investigates and problem solves, why student isn’t attending

  22. Strategies that Help • Sustained one on one attention and problem solving for chronic absenteeism. • Bring in appropriate social service or community supports as needed.

  23. Engage Parents in Improving Attendance • Share ideas with parents and make them part of the team without placing blame. • Establish a contact at school for family members to work with (Epstein & Sheldon, 2002).

  24. Engage Parents in Improving Attendance • Make home visits to chronically absent children. Provide a home family liaison to identify the root causes for children not coming to school, and to “initiate discussions about community services that can assist” (Schargel & Smink, 2001, p. 51)

  25. Effective Attendance Policies • Are publicized and understood by all staff and students. • Clearly distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. • Are aligned with the district's policies and goals. • Are intended to change behavior, not to punish. Reconsider the use of zero tolerance policies such as suspensions for truancy and instead consider less severe consequences such as community service or in-school detentions (Skiba & Knesting, 2001).

  26. Effective Attendance Policies • Contain effective reporting, recording, and monitoring processes. Investigate the various computerized attendance tracking systems currently available. • Include full family involvement, with parent notification and frequent home-school contact. • Clearly specify how reward or incentive programs will be used. • Develop two-way contracts among students, teachers, administrators, and families that delineate standards of performance for the student, services the school will provide, or changes the school will make.

  27. Contact • Loujeania Williams Bost • lbost@clemson.edu • Clemson University • 864-656-6976

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