With “Sustaining Success: Investing in Showing Up,” Attendance Works, the campaign partners and the Institute for Educational Leadership presented the final 2023 Attendance Awareness Campaign webinar. The webinar focused on student health, home visits, strategies to develop strong, trusting relationships and positive, problem-solving approaches driven by data.
“Chronic absence remains extremely elevated,” said Attendance Works founder and executive director, Hedy Chang. To turn the tide, “we really are talking about a shift in mindset,” from a punitive approach to a supportive one.
The first speaker, Amy Norton, director of health and wellness services in Washington’s Yakima School District, noted that many parents remain confused about whether children should attend school when illness is a question. She added that school nurses can help improve student attendance by administering medications, managing and monitoring chronic conditions and assessing both physical and mental health symptoms.
Two speakers discussed Connecticut’s Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP) and its success in improving attendance. Statewide, a study by the Center for Connecticut Education Research Collaboration showed that in-person visits led to a 4% increase in attendance a month after the first visit, a 10% increase six months afterward in preschool through 5th grade, and a 20% increase six months afterward in grades 6-12, said Kari Sullivan-Custer, state education consultant, attendance, engagement, and LEAP, Connecticut State Department of Education. There were several nonattendance results as well, such as improved family-school relationships and increased student achievement.
Latasha Easterling-Turnquest, chief of family partnership and student engagement, Manchester Public Schools, Welcome Center, provided examples of how LEAP was carried out.
Scott Hale, principal at Johnstown Junior-Senior High School, shared the Success Mentor program. Through pairing students with mentors, attendance has improved. Punishment for poor attendance hadn’t worked, he said. During the pandemic, they studied the reasons for absenteeism, and attendance teams were created before the mentoring pilot program began. Any school employee can be a mentor—teacher, executive, kitchen worker, nurse or coach. These adults check in with students three to five days a week.
Here too, unintentional results have included increased passing grades in classes, better executive functioning and improved family partnerships. Hale shared a comment from an eighth grade participant in the mentoring program. “If it weren’t for my success mentor, I wouldn’t be passing seven classes,” the eighth grader said. “She helped me change my attitude toward school.”
If you missed this event, click here and scroll down for the archived recording and materials.
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