Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mayor Rolls Out Attendance Initiative

Tomorrow Mayor McGinn will be rolling out the city's new attendance initiative,

Be Here, Get There.  
Every day in school matters.  

The Mayor will be having a press conference on Monday, Oct. 3rd at Denny Middle School at 11:30 am to announce this new initiative.   

This is an effort to, obviously, get more kids to be in school every day.  The goal is 80% attendance throughout the year with 5 or fewer absences a year.

This initiative is NOT just for kids who are not in school because of family issues.  They are also going for parents who take their kids out of school for vacations during school days.  They are emphatic that this issue impacts every child who is not in school. 
Here's a good website about this issue that the Mayor's staff directed me to called Attendance Works about why this issue matters.  Also, here's an interesting survey about when to keep your child home from school. 

There will be contests for schools between classes in elementary and K-8 schools with prizes for classes with highest daily attendance in October winning a pizza party from Pagliacci Pizza and gift cards for teachers.  

In middle and high school, students will be competing individually with a drawing for prizes including a couple of iPads and bicycles.  (Note to your teens, these some pretty good odds of maybe winning something just by being in school.)

This effort is sponsored by the City of Seattle, Seattle Schools, Get Schooled, Coyote Central and the Alliance for Education.  There will be a web site at Getschooled.com/seattle but I think it goes live tomorrow.  

The campaign, name, brand, identity and posters will be developed by Coyote Central, the local non-profit working with youth in Seattle.    There will even be "wake up" calls by celebrities. 

When I had my meeting with WEA President, Mary Lindquist, I told her about the Legislature thinking of tying funding to school attendance and she was aghast.  If the Legislature gets tough this way (and they might instead of just cutting funding to one education area), then our district and our schools will be punished.  The district can only encourage parents to get their children to school but this one has to come from parents (not withstanding the Metro schedules for high school students). 


Anonymous said...

Try changing the high school hours to noon til 6:30pm. Add some evening classes. Bet attendance would go up & drop out rate would go down. Put sports practice at 10:00am, then see how alert they are in first period.

-high school parent

David said...

I'm not sure about this. Like a lot of these efforts, the metric seems misguided and subject to manipulation.

It will be easy to get students who are doing well to have even better attendance, but hard to get students who are not to. You will end up seeing improvement in # of students with 5 or fewer absences a year without seeing any improvement in the drop out rate or achievement gap.

If the goal is to reduce the achievement gap and drop out rate, improving attendance from those who are not struggling in school is not going to help. What would be better is to focus on what is causing truancy for kids that are struggling in school and fix that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

David, good points. What are the barriers to getting to school? I suspect it is quite different for elem. to middle to high school.

Johnny Calcagno said...

I agree with David here, although my initial emotional and unhelpful response is utter annoyance.

Families can and should be able to make attendance decisions on their own, especially for younger children. We don't need a one-size-fits-all policy.

This was a good blog thread on the subject.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with David. Finding the reasons for absences (and they are definitely many) is the key.

I knew of one family whose elementary kids (K and 2nd grader) often missed school because of poor planning, etc. Mom got off to work at Harborview quite early leaving her boyfriend to get the kids off to school (about a mile away, so no bus). I distinctly remember one day they didn't go because the Kindergartener could not find her shoes. This kind of thing happened often, as the boyfriend was not that motivated to get them to school. They would often walk across the street to beg a ride from my friend if it was raining. If they missed her, they sometimes stayed home. Eventually, she contacted mom and arranged for the girls to go to school with her boys.

ArchStanton said...

A couple of thoughts:
While I'm all for keeping kids in school and finding ways to help those who are chronically absent; I think families should be able to decide to keep a child out of school for special/personal circumstances. I'm also just a trifle concerned that this might create pressure for kids who are legitimately ill to go to school and expose everyone else to their illness. Personally, I resent when others feel compelled to take their germs to school or the workplace - odds are they aren't being very productive and overall productivity goes down when half the class/office is sick. That's an aspect of modern office culture I'd rather not instill.

Personal anecdote:
I switched schools in middle school and had a hard time transitioning/fitting in at my new school. My single-mother was working a lot and didn't have the resources or energy to help me. I skipped what felt like 1/4-1/3 of a year and a half (forged a lot of notes) and went from mostly A grades to Cs and Ds. Looking back; I am surprised and even resentful that not one out of the 12 (or so) teachers or counselors responsible for me didn't take note of my absences or falling grades and try to figure out what was going on. That period of time set me back and got me in a hole that I never quite dug myself out of in high school.

So; I support tracking chronic absences to identify kids with problems and provide them help. But, if there isn't a true problem they should let families make their own choices.

dj said...

I also agree with David. There is a disconnect between the mayor's initiative and the page that he suggested checking out. The problem appears to be chronic absenteeism among kids who already are at risk or struggling. It just seems like misplaced effort to more broadly condemn parents who for one reason or another keep their kids out of school on a given day.

Anonymous said...

Well, I sent a sick kid to school today. She missed her soccer game & a birthday party yesterday with a miserable cold, cough, congestion & nausea. She needs sleep. She has already called in sick to work last night & they are glad that she won't be coming in today to spread it around to other employees & clients.

However, she knows that she cannot miss school. In school you have one day to make up anything you missed the day before. So if you missed a test in one class & a lab in another, you have to make them both up after school the following day. Neither teacher is going to wait until you have been to the other teacher first, so one teacher will give you a zero. You can also hand in your missed work a day late, if you are recovered enough to do twice the work in one day. Heaven help you if you are trying to make up a math lesson based on reading the explanation in the Discovery textbook. But your teachers won't get your work with the work from the rest of your class. So 2 weeks later, in at least one class, when it is entered on the source yours will be marked as a zero. Your teacher will not remember that you handed it in & you will have no proof that you did so. Even if you find it in the classroom, who's to say you handed it in on the required day?

So my child went to school today ensuring a longer recovery & decreased productivity for her as well as less learning as for all those others that she infects. She will probably learn absolutely nothing, but she will successfully jump through the hoops that demonstrate academic achievement.

Thank goodness her workplace is more reasonable than the school.

-another high school parent

ArchStanton said...

So my child went to school today ensuring a longer recovery & decreased productivity for her as well as less learning as for all those others that she infects.

If the class (or workplace) is competitive or the teacher grades on curve; sharing your illness could be a valid strategy for leveling the playing field, I suppose.

seattle citizen said...

Here's some hyperbole about students missing school from a guest editorialist in the Seattle Times:

Wake students up to importance of not missing school

i.e.: "A former teacher, I was often faced with the challenge of teaching a different mix of kids every day. Only a handful of students regularly attended class. The rest came when the weather was just right, they hadn't stayed up too late the night before, or there was nothing better going on. How do you teach when your students don't show up?...
...How much is too much school to miss? If a student misses five days, he or she is at risk. We know a kid who misses 10 days per year has trouble keeping up. Kids who miss 20 days a year have a one-in-five chance of graduating from high school."

Melissa Westbrook said...

The survey attached to this thread is about symptoms and when you are considering keeping your child home.

Charlie Mas said...

Story in the Times.

Guest column in the Times.

Come Friday we will be done with that campaign of the week and onto the next.