Uniting Community to Support School Attendance

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Guest Blog by Kyler Daniels, Ready Schools Coordinator for The Down East Partnership for Children

Twin Counties Read to Rise poster, Down East Partnership for Children

At the Down East Partnership for Children (DEPC), we spent September working on our annual Attendance Awareness Campaign in honor of the national month, under the guidance of Attendance Works. We decided to mirror the theme our friends at Attendance Works were using for their campaign, “Stay Connected, Keep Learning.” We utilized weekly posts on our social media platforms to share tips, strategies, and little-known facts about the importance of school attendance and the impact of chronic absenteeism. Take a look for yourself here: Social Media Posts.docx

Starting a New Year Focused Ways to Support Better School Attendance

Since this was the beginning of the school year, our work with targeted schools normally kicks off with the attendance campaign. We have four schools where we do intentional work sharing strategies specific to each school’s community, to strengthen each strategy of our local Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Our Ready Schools team has implemented a new plan for how we support those local elementary schools in the Twin Counties, Nash and Edgecombe. 

Our targeted schools were first surveyed about different components of how attendance is a problem at each school, impacting literacy and promotion to the next grade. The survey helped us gain a better understanding of what issues to address in our campaign. We sent the surveys to the school principals and asked them to complete them with any staff focused on attendance at their school. You can access the survey questions online hereThrough our survey of schools, we found the largest known barrier for good school attendance by school administration is lack of housing and lack of basic necessities.

Next, we shared different tools with these schools to provide to students during Attendance Awareness Month to put an extra focus on attendance with Attendance Success Plans, the September attendance challenge, and sample posts schools could share with their school community by way of social media, ClassDojo, or other communication methods. Most of that content can be found on our Attendance Matters page online. We intend to track how useful these resources are to schools and measure impact using our End-of-Year survey, which we will send to our targeted schools next May. 

Attendance Approaches & Success in Targeted Schools

Work in one of our four targeted schools is bringing back a success mentor program that will allow students at risk of being chronically absent the opportunity to meet with a mentor on a regular basis in and out of school. GW Carver Elementary School has successfully conducted the Success Mentor Program in their school once before. 

Now that students are present again in school, the principal requested our help to support getting the mentor program back up and running as we did the first time around. This school also hosts Must Be Present to Win contests where they call a student’s name randomly throughout a random part of the school day and if they are present, they win a prize. Many of our targeted schools use this contest as a way to incentivize having good school attendance.

Another one of our targeted schools of work, Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, adopted the use of our September Attendance Challenge Contest. This meant every student received a blank copy of the September 2022 calendar and marked either red, yellow, or green each day to keep a visual representation of their attendance for the month. They marked Red if they were absent, Yellow if they were tardy or checked out early, and Green if they were in school all day and on time. The school has requested calendars for their students to use for the remainder of the school year.

Partnering to See Reading Rise Throughout the Twin Counties

During the month of October, we have the benefit of meeting with school committees that support our Twin Counties Read to Rise work:

  1. Summer Learning
  2. School Attendance
  3. School Readiness

Our NC Pre-K staff go to great lengths to ensure children attend programs regularly. They institute attendance exceptions in special circumstances, which allows the child to attend remotely through the Remote Moments and Teaching Strategies Gold Ready Rosie App. It is a family engagement platform that allows the teacher to give specific resources to keep the child and family engaged, when the child is unable to attend in person. 

We wrapped up the month with our Ready Schools Committee meeting which is a steering committee for our Twin Counties Read to Rise community campaign. The committee consists of DEPC staff, school staff, district staff, local library staff, community partners, and school-community team partners. Our meeting focused on School Attendance. You can get an idea of how that meeting flowed from our PPT presentation, which guided the meeting. 

With this group, we shared child-friendly and school-friendly materials to promote good school attendance. Promotional materials included color-changing cups, pencils, youth t-shirts, banners, posters, and yard signs all with attendance messaging. We also distributed social images that could be shared on social media and other resources on our attendance page. 

We’re excited to continue the collaboration and sharing of insights to develop an even broader look at how we can work together as a community to reduce chronic absenteeism rates in our Twin Counties. 

Twin Counties Read to Rise is led by the Down East Partnership for Children and is one of 13 collaboratives across the state that participate in NCECF’s North Carolina Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.