It seems like a simple thing, you go to school and you learn — but for many students, getting to school can be very difficult. Chronic absence is a common problem in schools, especially in schools that have a high amount of students living in poverty. This year, Granite School District decided to launch the “Every Day Counts” attendance challenge, and Oquirrh Hills Elementary has gladly stepped up and accepted.
Oquirrh Hills teachers and faculty have developed several strategies designed to tackle attendance issues, including strategies to target individual students all the way to school-wide participation. Through the AmeriCorps program, a designated full-time Mentoring for Success Director, who is better known to the students as the “attendance teacher,” has designed a strategy that includes an early intervention for students who are “at-risk” of chronic absence. This is determined by students who are currently missing 10 percent of total school days. For example, if a student misses 3 days in one month they would be invited to participate in a “check in/check out” program. This means when the student attends school, they check in with our Director at the beginning of the day and check out at last recess to earn points towards prizes. Just having someone that students know is waiting for them at school, and will miss them if they are gone, is a big motivation to get to school. Our Director also works alongside our school counselor to work closely with families to make sure their needs are being met.
This year at Oquirrh Hills, the school theme is “Ready, Set, Grow.” Within each classroom, when each student is present, the class gets to add a piece of stem to a flower posted outside their door and watch it grow. For every ten days, students get to add a leaf, and what’s even more exciting is that for every leaf earned, students get to add prizes to their classroom piñata. At the end of the school year, students will get to break open their piñata and share in the prizes of their hard work.
School wide, students are recognized for not only perfect attendance, but also most improved attendance through quarterly celebrations, necklace charms and colorful charts posted in the halls. The greatest challenge however, and one that has yet to be achieved this year, is that if every student in the school is present before 10:00 AM, an “At Ten Dance” will be announced and music will start playing. Students can then get up and bust a move to a fun groove right at their desks!
Granite School District recently sent out the attendance challenge leader board, and to everyone’s excitement, Oquirrh Hills scored number 6 of 50 schools for improved attendance in November and are hoping to continue to see improvements for month’s to come.