Over the past two school years, DCPNI has worked closely with Neval Thomas ES and Cesar Chavez-Parkside Public Charter School to address the issue of chronic absenteeism among students in pre-school through 9th grades. A chronically absent student is one that misses 10 percent or more of school days during an academic year – in the District of Columbia, this equates to 18 days or more.
Working with our partner schools, DCPNI committed to decreasing the percentage of chronically absent students at the schools through the creation of an initiative called Every Day Counts. Using raw student attendance data at multiple points in time and historical attendance data, DCPNI and the schools classified students into three different levels: students at a low risk, moderate risk, and high risk for of chronic absenteeism. Using these student classifications, DCPNI then created a distinct intervention for each population and collectively the initiative is known as Every Day Counts.
For students at low risk of chronic absenteeism, DCPNI partnered with City Year to deliver rewards for students with consistent attendance. City Year staff use weekly attendance reports to identify students and classes that have perfect attendance for the past week and distribute individual and classroom level incentives.
For students at moderate risk for chronic absenteeism, the school attendance counselors use weekly and monthly reports to monitor changes in attendance patterns. If a student demonstrates worsening attendance, the counselors will reach out to the family and discuss the importance of regular school attendance as well as determine if referrals to additional services are necessary.
For students at high risk of chronic absenteeism, East River Family Strengthening Collaborative (ERFSC) and DCPNI staff use weekly and monthly data reports to monitor changes in attendance. If a student is consistently absent, an ERFSC or DCPNI staff person will reach out to the family and attempt to determine the underlying causes of frequent absences. ERFSC and DCPNI staff then refer families and students to services designed to assist with overcoming challenges that may result in chronic absenteeism.
DCPNI measures the effectiveness of Every Day Counts by looking at changes in the percentage of students that are chronically absent at the each school and in each grade level. Over the past two school years, DCPNI and the schools have been able to decrease the percentage of chronically absent students in grades Pre-School to 9 from 35.6% to 28.7%. Or, to put a more positive spin on the data, DCPNI has been able to increase the percentage of students that regularly attend school (attend 90% or more of school days during the academic year) from 64.4% to 71.3% over a two year period.
DCPNI has found particular success in decreasing the percentage of chronically absent Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten students at Thomas ES. These grades do not have compulsory attendance in DC, so getting parents to send their children to school is particularly challenging. During the 12-13 academic year, 63% of PS and PK students were chronically absent. After two years of Every Day Counts, the percentage of chronically absent PS and PK students decreased to 42%.
Similar success was found in the K-5 grades. During the 12-13 academic year, 30% of K-5 students at Thomas ES were chronically absent. Using the Every Day Counts programming, DCPNI and Thomas ES decreased the percentage of chronically absent K-5 students during the 14-15 academic year to 20% Of particular interest was the dramatic improvement seen in attendance among 5th grade students – which is traditionally a grade where attendance begins to worsen for students. Over a two year period, DCPNI and Thomas were able to decrease the percentage of chronically absent 5th grade students from 25% to 6% through Every Day Counts.
Chronic absenteeism was the topic of DCPNI’s Back-to-School Family Reunion in August. Missing just 10 percent of the school year in the early grades can lead to students falling behind in math and reading, failing courses, and even eventually dropping out of high school. DCPNI’s “Every Day Counts” initiative has reduced the percentage of chronically absent students in Kenilworth-Parkside elementary and middle schools by 7 percentage points over the past two academic years. During our Back-to-School event, DCPNI demonstrated the impact of chronic absenteeism and encouraged parents to be especially vigilant about their children’s daily attendance.