Improving attendance… ideas?

Improving attendance is a new project for me this year, in part because the problems are worse or at least more noticeable this year, in part because it has been identified as something our school needs to work on to keep up with our peer group of schools.  Of course, it’s not just to look good in the peer group that we need to focus on this, it’s because improving attendance should help the kids in multiple ways.  I firmly believe that inertia is a force that can work for you: once a kid gets in the habit of attending school, it becomes easier to attend than to stay home.  Grades improve, success builds on success, friendships become stronger, relationships with teachers improve, and the reasons to attend begin to outweigh the reasons to cut.

Here’s what it looks like so far: most of our kids have missed no school at all or just a day or two in the last two months.  A smaller, middle group has missed several days in the last two months, more than is really appropriate.  And a very small group (<5 students) has missed many days, some attending as little as 50%.  Clearly, a three-pronged approach is in order – reward, recognize, and reinforce the behavior of those who attend regularly; bring on board the families (and the students themselves) in the middle group; intensive focus on underlying problems in the third group.  But, um, how?  We’ve already started zeroing in on the reasons behind the low attendance of the chronic absentees, and oh boy is it going to be an uphill battle getting these kids in school regularly, what with all the health issues and family problems and the lack of a going-to-school-everyday-habit.  And what do we do with the middle group?

If you know of schools that have tried innovative approaches to attendance, or studies of such schools, please let me know!  We need creative ideas!

2 Comments

Filed under education, New York, teaching

2 responses to “Improving attendance… ideas?

  1. Aina Bernier

    How many kids per grade in your school?

  2. lev

    good morning! i woke up about an hour ago because i kept hearing my students whining “but miss! i do my work!” so i got up compelled to make a chart of what i consider “work” to be (i’ll get to “good work” later). so i googled “miss, i do my work!” and saw your blog and can’t stop reading it!!! it’s so wonderful. and your pictures are amazing. i don’t know anything about blogging, but i hear your voice, and i literally laughed and almost cried. i saw the heading about what we would do if we didn’t teach, and i couldn’t read it. i have been thinking, in the last year, maybe this isn’t for me. fourteen years later!! i thought people bailed after three or seven or something. maybe it’s the “no child left behind” thing that has changed the culture of our school, the mostly “ones and twos” instead of the “threes and fours” we normally got. yet it’s really the adults in the building who i take most issue with. ahhhh, where am i going with this? not a rant as much as a plea. i wish there was someone at school who i could talk to about norman mailer. i wish i was better at grading and returning student work in a more timely manner. i wish kids would trust me that i am on their side even if other teachers seem out to get them. i wish stairwell #6 didn’t smell like urine. don’t get me wrong – i have no interest in teaching robotically dutiful kids. actually, i don’t even know where those kids exist anymore (not in connecticut, according my nieces, and not in catholic schools, according to what i see in the mornings on the corner of my block in brooklyn). what i want is consistency from the adults regarding how we treat kids, what our intentions and expectations are, etc. i am just tired of trying to convince kids that “i do my work” does not mean only copying notes off the board and handing in work that has not been re-read to make sure it’s work to be proud of. i became a teacher because i hated high school and knew i could do better, but i feel i am not scratching the surface. and i am loosing my energetic mojo that sustained me for so long. but it all feels different now. AND YET… i feel energized by what i read on your blog. and it’s only 9:30 on sunday morning. i have all day to whip up some stuff that might entice my students this week. is it supposed to be like this in my fourteenth year? what else would i do instead of teach? i can’t even begin to think. i have a lot of work to do today. thanks.

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