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Attendance teams work to reduce chronic absenteeism

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Every Day Matters Attendance Conference

More than 100 members of school attendance teams from Albuquerque, Belen, and Bernalillo public schools as well as state charters, participated in Mission: Graduate’s follow-up to our 2017 Every Day Matters Attendance Conference. This session was organized to address questions and needs that teams indicated they could use more assistance with.

Attendance is one of three key predictors of falling off track to graduation. The other two are excessive disciplinary problems and earning failing grades in core courses, such as math and language arts.

The Conference, organized by Mission: Graduate and hosted by Albuquerque Public Schools, provided an opportunity for teams to reflect on and celebrate their progress, learn new techniques and tools to improve their effectiveness, and learn how to use and integrate data into their attendance improvement plans.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy stressed the importance of the work being done by the teams. Attendance is important beginning in Kindergarten. “If kids don’t show up, we can’t teach them,” she explained.  “The average kindergartener misses 10 days a school year. For every day missed, it takes three days to catch them up. It would take 30 days to catch them up.”

Organizers provided guidance on the five steps of Attendance Team Effectiveness: meeting, getting administrative buy in, using data to track work and make decisions, engaging families, teachers and students, and engaging the community.

In the spirit of spreading best-practices, the schools shared their successes. Just a few examples:

  • Garfield Middle School is seeing success by focusing its efforts on specific kids who need help. Meeting with kids one-on-one has proved to be effective.
  • Identifying incoming freshmen with a history of attendance issues and partnering them with seniors who mentor them during freshman year has worked well for Highland High School.
  • Bernalillo High School has begun working with the district to rewrite truancy policies to better address chronic absenteeism.
  • Polk Middle School holds Family Attendance Nights to both entertain and educate families.
  • Using attendance data, the West Mesa High School team discovered that many students were missing school on Mondays, so they started “Donut Miss Monday” to encourage attendance that day. Students are welcomed on their way into school and are given a donut.
  • Kirtland Elementary School established a Walking School Bus to ensure students make it safely to school each day.
  • James Monroe Middle School holds grade-level attendance competitions with rewards such as Pajama Day.
  • Belen schools are participating in Attendance Awareness month and engaging students through challenges and recognizing good and improving attendance. Students can earn and collect printed Eagles – the high school team mascot – to show their progress. Students were recognized by participating in half-time activities during a high school football game last September.

Mission: Graduate is working on compiling a list of local school best practices to share with the community.

To learn more about Mission: Graduate’s work on attendance, APS schools can contact Elizabeth Exil at elizabeth.exil@uwcnm.org, all other central New Mexico schools can contact Teri Wimborne at teri.wimborne@uwcnm.org.

The conference was coordinated by Attendance Team co-chairs Kelly Callahan and Patsy Nelson; partners Marvin Johnson, Daphne Strader, and Renata Witte, and the Mission: Graduate team consisting of Brennan Artrip, Elizabeth Exil, Angelo Gonzales, Derek Kuit, Anne Tafoya, and Teri Wimborne.

Click here to obtain a copy of the conference materials.

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