We know that attendance is critical to student success because if kids are not in school, they cannot learn.
KSSN has focused on attendance since we started working in schools. Indeed, in 2012, Grand Rapids was one of five communities nationwide to be awarded the Campaign for Grade Level Reading’s Pacesetter Award for Attendance. The DHHS Success Coaches in our school are critical partners in our work on attendance. Our community school coordinators meet with DHHS Success Coaches and other school personnel for regular attendance meetings. Here, we go beyond mere documentation of attendance patterns and notification of parents to identifying root causes of individual students' absences and marshalling resources to address the students' needs. As a team, we identify solutions: anything from purchasing alarm clocks to arranging transportation, to ensuring that familes can get their kids to school on time, every day.
KSSN has seen the positive impact of its attendance efforts over the past eight years. Results from a three-year evaluation of KSSN’s pilot schools found that rates of chronic absenteeism (defined as missing between 10 and 20 percent of all possible school days) declined in half of the KSSN schools. In some schools, there was a decrease in the number of chronically absent students from over 26% to less than 12%. Extreme chronic absenteeism (absent more than 20 percent of all school days) decreased in five of the eight KSSN schools over the evaluation period. Higher absenteeism was also tied to lower math and reading scores in the report.
In January and November of 2013, the Community Research Institute at the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University released two updated evaluation reports on KSSN’s attendance work since 2008. These reports compared KSSN and non-KSSN schools, as well as examined the link between school environment and attendance. Findings showed that:
• There were statistically significant differences between KSSN and non-KSSN schools in the percentage of student absenteeism for each school year.
• In non-KSSN schools, the number of days students attended decreased between the 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 school years, while in KSSN schools, the number of days students attended increased.
• In KSSN schools with DHHS Success Coaches, students attended five more days (one full school week) in the 2010-12 school year than in the 2008-2010 school years. In non- KSSN schools, students attended 2.5 days fewer over the same time period.
• In the analysis of 2010-2013 attendance data for six of the seven KSSN districts, satisfactory attendance increased by seven percent from the 2011-2012 school year to the 2012-2013 school year.
• 38% of teachers in KSSN schools reported that the number of students who were present and ready to learn had increased since KSSN had come to their school, and 43% said discipline disruptions had decreased. These numbers suggest that KSSN is making progress toward its goals of helping teachers spend more time focused on teaching and delivering students who are ready to learn.