Small class sizes, new textbooks, effective teachers and monetary funding are all among the needs to make public schools successful, but none of it matters if students aren’t showing up. This was the case in New York according to recent studies showing evidence of decreasing attendance at public schools. In 1995, 1 in 9 elementary school students were absent every day. Recent efforts focused on attendance caused that number to drop to 1 in 15 in 2011.
To combat the epidemic of absenteeism, a multitude of creative efforts have been implemented by New York City officials. Students receive automated wake up calls from celebrities, such as Magic Johnson, reminding them to make it to school. Other incentives include receiving prizes for consistent attendance.
Public School 75 in the Bronx has taken chronic absenteeism very seriously. A partnership with City Year has proven to increase elementary attendance. City Year is a Federal program focusing on schools with high poverty rates, offering mentoring services aimed to decrease dropout rates. A group of City Year mentors greet students at P.S. 75 as they arrive each day rewarding them with stickers, hugs, high fives and words of encouragement.
P.S. 309’s principal Emily Zucal has also joined the efforts to ensure students are showing up to school every day. Students wear necklaces with pendants representing months in which they maintained perfect attendance, and special assemblies are held for students who consistently come to school. To create excitement about the school day, Zucal organized a morning fitness program for students before school. P.S. 309’s attempts are proving successful; attendance has increased steadily over the last two years.
While the experience of two schools has shown change in absentee rates, schools know the problem is bigger than prizes and high fives. Creating good future habits is the goal of school officials when implementing incentive programs and utilizing mentorships like City Year. The lessons New York schools have learned from the current pilot programs will undoubtedly serve as a formula for other school districts experiencing similar attendance issues.
Via New York Times