Nearly two hundred leaders and educators from across the country gathered for a conversation between Possip’s CEO, Shani Dowell, school administrators Kavon Seay and Marc Anthony Peek of Napier Elementary in Nashville, communication consultant Austin Rhodes of Rhodes Branding, and law partner and community fitness leader James Crumlin.
Keep reading to learn their thoughts on increasing attendance…
The framework for improving attendance and increasing enrollment starts with engaging families to understand the barriers to attendance.
Data from Attendance Works, a national non-profit initiative, finds that:
“chronic absence is a solvable problem. What works is taking a data-driven, comprehensive approach that begins with engaging students and families as well as preventing absences from adding up before they fall behind academically.”
Possip’s routine Pulse Checks™ are a way to engage all families often and learn about their needs early on. Through routine feedback you can notice a potential barrier when it first arises for a family. For families already dealing with chronic absences, Possip’s Attendance Checks are a way to learn about direct and specific barriers to missing school.
Possip’s data shows us that sickness and transportation are the biggest barriers to attendance. In feedback from over 7000 families since 2019, we learn that 40% of families report having a barrier to attendance. Sickness is the top barrier, ranging from half to the majority of absences. Transportation is the second top barrier, averaging about 10% of absences.
Once you understand barriers, you can begin removing them. Addressing health and transportation first.
Marc Anthony Peek, Community Achieves Site Manager at Napier Elementary in Nashville, shares some of the tactics his team has developed to address transportation barriers, including a walking school bus, and smartly timed attendance incentives informed by data.
Consider these tactics for removing transportation barriers:
- Community schools can meet families where they are with solutions like Napier’s walking school bus.
- Wide windows of time for drop off and pick up help families have flexibility in their schedules.
- Helping families build their net of support for carpooling, and having parents who volunteer to help with carpooling
- Extracurricular activities and after-school programs aid with that flexible timing and have the added benefit of motivating students to come to school.
When families are asked in Pulse Checks what would help with attendance, Possip data shows they believe extracurricular activities, and a support person or mentor will help ensure attendance each day. This is why we consult partnering schools in creating community “nets” of support.
- Consider intentional partnerships, engaging community organizations to help motivate students or provide a safe place.
- Send parents home with a family phone tree to collect phone numbers of families who live near them and/or their bus stop.
- During school events, have parents build out their support network as an activity.
Lawyer and Triathlete James Crumlin, who notably leads Nashville’s most popular and longest running free community workout Capitol Steps, talks more about the role of a support person or mentor:
To address the top barrier of sickness, establish clear guidance for parents and kids on what to do when sick. Here are a few ways:
- Make “go/no go” decisions clear.
- Keep schools healthy, and communicate about it – highlight post-COVID protocols, share stats, update families on your efforts.
- Repeatedly communicate the attendance policies related to sickness throughout the year. Make sure parents know exactly how and when to contact you for help.
While doing the good work of removing barriers, focus your team around communicating a culture of attendance rather than a prerogative of compliance. Focus efforts on community over compliance.
Possip’s CEO, Shani Dowell, voices the family perspective that surfaces in Pulse Checks, and how parents tend to respond to messages of compliance.
Communications consultant Austin Rhodes of Rhodes Branding talked about building a culture of attendance by integrating messaging and values that school is worth going to.
Your team can step back to discuss developing these motivating mindsets:
- What a student has to look forward to each day and each week
- Why it’s worth showing up at school
- What a student might miss if they miss school
- How the school is better with the student present
Extend that culture of attendance to families, aligning through sharing data and stories.
Dr. Kavon Seay, Dean of Students at Napier Elementary reminds us that “coming through with the caring piece” and sharing our own stories as educators and mentors is a way to align families, staff and students around this culture of attendance you’ve worked so hard to reinforce and communicate.
We shared several resources and tactics throughout this blog. Here are quick links to each of those:
- Family Phone Tree template
- Family Support Network Guide
- Resource Sheet including links to additional data tools
- Full Event Recording