rokich-stephanieby Stephanie Rokich
Community Collaborations Director

If you’re an avid reader of United Way of Salt Lake’s blog The Hub, you might have noticed several posts about the importance of students attending school regularly. For an overview of attendance, check out this “Every Day Counts” post by fellow Community Collaborations Director, Chris Ellis. As the title suggests, every day that a student attends school increases that student’s chances of success. Students who miss 10 percent or more of school, whether for excused reasons or not, are much less likely to stay on top of their school work and on track to graduate.

This issue has been of particular importance at Kearns Junior High, as explained by Community School Coordinator Kyle Price in another recent post. At the junior high level, many students are responsible for getting themselves to school. Attendance problems often arise when students don’t get up on time for school, have to take care of a sick sibling, or simply choose not to attend.

Kearns Jr. High put together an attendance awareness plan to both educate students about the impact missed days have on their success at school, and to incentivize students to attend. To educate fellow students about attendance, the school’s Peer Leadership Team created fun posters and hung them around the school. Weekly competitions encouraged students in the same first period classes to join forces and encourage one another to be at school. The classes with full attendance – meaning every student was in their seat, on time – received treats for the whole class. The full classes were also announced to the entire school, and teachers reported this incentive as a HUGE motivator for students.

Additionally, staff members who work one-on-one with students who struggle attending school regularly, picked a set of students to focus on for the month. They worked with the students to set goals and agree upon incentives for their improved attendance, because research shows the importance of rewarding improved attendance as well as perfect attendance. They also called parents to work through their students’ attendance issues with them.

Kearns Students

Attendance Awareness Month was a big collaboration between the principal, teachers, school counselors, attendance staff, afterschool program staff, and many others. Organizing a school-wide attendance awareness month was a lot of work, but the positive results were staggering! Upon comparing data for an entire month from November 2012 when there was no attendance push to 2013 when the most recent Attendance Awareness Month took place:

–          Week 1, 2012: 43 average daily absences (ada)
–          Week 1, 2013: 22 ada
–          Week 2, 2012: 47 ada
–          Week 2, 2013: 34 ada
–          Week 3, 2012 (Thanksgiving week): 75 ada
–          Week 3, 2013: 42 ada
–          Week 4, 2012: 51 ada
–          Week 4, 2013 (Thanksgiving week): 47 ada

Kearns Junior will continue educating students and parents about the importance of good attendance habits by showcasing posters with pictures of Kearns Junior students and blurbs about attendance awareness. The school will also be re-booting attendance awareness month repeatedly throughout the year to help build those habits and keep students in school as much as possible. A future focus will be on Monday and Friday attendance, which data shows are the most missed days of school.

Congrats Kearns Junior students, and thank you Kearns Junior staff, for LIVING UNITED and making Attendance Awareness Month successful!