Getting ready in the morning can sometimes be the hardest part of the day. Pulling yourself out of bed, going through the daily chores of cleaning, dressing, breakfast, taking care of the kids or the dog, getting your lunch, and leaving the house remembering to lock the door. It is a wonder that we all make it to work on time.
This is most likely due to practicing morning routines to get to school on time as children. However, for many students, the morning can be a chaotic swirl that winds up getting you to school a few hours late or missing the day entirely. At many Title I schools, attendance is one of the hardest obstacles that faculty and administration face. How do you get kids motivated to get out of bed and get to school on time every day?
At Woodrow Wilson Elementary, we took a team-oriented focus on how to address this problem, a problem that can make such a huge impact on academic outcomes for our students. Within a year’s time, we had the most improved attendance data in all of Granite School District.
Regular attendance has shown to be the most correlative metric for student success. This make sense because if the student misses class, he or she will not know the material that will be used on homework or tests. At Woodrow Wilson, the entire school made a very deliberate effort this year to improve on our chronic absenteeism from last year. The first strategy that made a lot of our success possible was bringing in the AmeriCorps Mentor for Success program. This allowed us to bring on two amazing women to not only meet with students everyday who were having trouble getting to school on time, but to also do outreach with families to see if any additional assistance was needed. Sometimes all that was needed was an alarm clock given to the student and we would see their face bright and early before the first bell. Other times, it would take building the relationship with the parents and office staff to really drive home the message that everyone in the school wants their child to be at school and succeed. None of this would be possible without the amazing effort and drive of our two AmeriCorps Mentor for Success leaders.
Another large effort that made a huge difference this year was looking at the student community as a whole. Many times, when schools attempt to improve attendance, they will only focus on the students that have missed days up to that point. At Woodrow, we made it a school-wide focus for every student, regardless of how much school they had missed. Every day, trophies are handed out to classes that have perfect attendance. These perfect attendance days are tallied and posted in the main hall for everyone to see. It is amazing to see how even kindergartners will look at that chart and either be proud to be part of the winning class, or will talk to other kids in their class to get to school on time.
Every student at Woodrow is holding everyone in their class accountable for coming to school.
To make sure that no students fell between the cracks, as can be the case for transfer students or students that do not speak a language common to the school, the AmeriCorps leaders and our Social Worker meet weekly in order to target students for both attendance and behavior intervention. House visits, however intimidating, proved to be one of the most effective strategies in meeting with family and building the relationship and trust needed to get their kids to school on time every day.
These three amazing school personnel, through no mandate from superior, created a highly-impactful strategy that will become a backbone to Woodrow Wilson’s success for years to come.