If students are not in school, then they do not learn. It is a simple concept, but it is one that has been in large part overlooked. It can be difficult for parents to make sure their child makes it into school everyday; some students would rather be somewhere else, and some schools lack the recourses to ensure proper attendance.
At Lee Mathson Middle School, we are attacking this problem. We are taking a three prong approach to get students into the classroom and learning the skills that will make them successful in life.
First, we call parents when students are late. Second, we are planning an initiative that will give incentives for students to be in class: the goal of this program will be to create a culture of class going for the chronically absent. Finally, we are planning to engage parents and inform them about the need for their student to be in school.
We have received a focus list from our school’s administration of chronically absent students, and we call their parents every day they are late or absent. We work with parents on how we can get their students to class on time. This is not an easy task: it oftentimes eats into our lunch break, and it can be nerve-wracking to call home- especially when many parents don’t speak English, but it’s worth it. My team and I signed up to make a difference, and the phone calls seem to be working. If calling home gets students in class and learning, then put a blue tooth headset on me and give me some numbers.
Presents for Presence
Across the country, schools have tried enticing their students to come to school through incentives, and these programs have worked. Our team recently applied for a grant that will allow us to employ a similar program. The idea is not to try and bribe students to come to school, but rather to allow students to see the benefits of regular attendance, and they will grow a sense of desire to be in school even after the incentives are gone. When students are in school more regularly, they will learn and grow.
Involving the Parents
Parents love their kids, and they want them to excel in school. But sometimes it is difficult for them to make sure their child makes it to school everyday. Part of our plan is to inform parents about why their child needs to be in school as much as possible. Recently, we had a Mariachi band commit to performing at our school. We will use this night as a chance to get parents to come out and inform them about our program as well as attendance. Ultimately, getting our students in school will start with getting parents on board.
Keeping students on track and on path to graduate begins with getting them into the classroom. Our efforts also go beyond the tangibles. We make our students our friends. We are mentors and encouragers. If I have a student who is not in school, I ask him why, and I encourage him to be in school and learn. Our relationship with the students is our best chance at getting them into the classroom as regularly as possible.
Jeff Arnold, Corps Member CYSJ