Who Can Improve Attendance?

Who is helping send the message that going to school every day matters? Beyond educators and administrators, are pediatricians involved? Your Mayor? National Service members? Local community schools initiatives?

Our We Need You! webinar on Wednesday featured a lively discussion about how allies from all sectors of the community can come together to make sure more students attend school every day. You can review the tape or see the Powerpoint deck here.

Dr. Mandy Allison of the American Academy of Pediatrics told participants how family doctors can ask about attendance during regular check ups, help parents decide when their child is too sick for school and coordinate with school personnel to help chronically ill students. Doctors know that healthy children are more engaged in school and perform better academically. And they know that school success lays the foundation for being successful adults who have better health in the long term.

Allison, who sits on the AAP’s Council of School Health, took questions about privacy concerns and what to do with doctors who “hand out medical excuses like candy.”

Terra Gay of Points of Light (POLI) described how National Service workers in the VISTA and City Year programs can promote a culture of attendance, mentor students and engage families to reduce chronic absence. She described POLI’s new Corps18 program provides schools and community organizations with VISTA workers dedicated to improving attendance. The program is still accepting applications for the 2014-15 school year. POLI has adopted attendance as a high priority because it is a concrete goal around which national service volunteers can make a measurable difference.

Kwesi Rollins of the Institute of Educational Leadership told how the community schools approach, bringing in nonprofits and service organizations to support a school, can lead to better attendance. In New York, Oakland, Baltimore, Portland and other places, community schools are reducing chronic absence as they improve student achievement. Read more on our web page for community schools.

Dr. Tonja Rucker of the National League of Cities gave participants some ideas for how mayors and city leaders can help reduce chronic absence. City leaders recognize that improving attendance is part of creating a vibrant, economically thriving, and safe community. It ensures young people read by third grade and graduate from high school so they have the skills to be productive, contributing citizens.

Mayors can use their bully pulpit to talk about the importance of attendance and they can use their conference table to bring community stakeholders together. They can also direct city resources–transit and housing agencies, social workers and public safety–to address challenges that are keeping children from coming to school. See our Toolkit for City Leaders for more ideas.

After each presenter spoke, we polled the participants to see how many were using these allies to promote better attendance. No more than a quarter of them were working with any of these groups. That means there is a lot of room to expand efforts. If you’re wondering how to get started, see our What to Do When page.

Please activate some Widgets.