District Attendance Teams
Since 2015, Middletown Public Schools has taken great strides ensure all stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, students, support staff, parents and community partners, understand chronic absenteeism and its role in student academic achievement. They have educated the community on the link between attendance and academic achievement by unpacking the data, providing professional development, engaging parents and partnering with community providers to identify strategies to remove barriers to attendance.
Middletown’s District Attendance Team employed the following strategies:
- Understanding the data - In 2015, Middletown Public Schools formed a District Data Team that included members of the administration, community members and parents to review chronic absenteeism data on a quarterly basis. The team established decreasing chronic absenteeism as one of the district’s goals and assigned responsibility for the goal to the District Climate Committee. A comprehensive plan was developed to implement and monitor strategies, provide professional development and resources to schools through each school’s data team and climate committee.
- Creating a culture of attendance - Middletown administrators’ first step toward changing the climate and culture around attendance was to provide professional development to help all stakeholders understand the importance of attending school every day. Training was provided to school administrators and support staff on strategies for tracking student attendance and protocol for sending attendance letters home. Trainings stressed the difference between tracking excused/unexcused absences and monitoring chronic absenteeism. The district adopted best practices and resources provided by Attendance Works.
- Parent engagement - Raising awareness of the importance of attendance with parents was identified as a priority for reducing chronic absenteeism. Templates were created for administrators to customize for their schools to use with families. Scripts were produced that provided positive messaging at school events to help parents understand why attendance matters and how it is linked to student success. Messages included what parents can do to ensure students regularly attend school and why this is vitally important. The goal is for all parents to understand that school attendance matters at all levels. Whether a preschool student or a high school student, if you are late to school or absent, valuable instruction is missed. The district constantly reinforces the message to be present on time every day.
- Community partnerships - Building on its strong ties with community agencies and resources, Middletown collaborated with community partners. Attendance data was regularly shared with partners in order to develop community strategies to improve student attendance. Community members were also included as part of the District Data Team. Middletown has several home-visiting programs including iCare and the Family School Connection program that have integrated the importance of regular attendance into their work with families. Professional staffs from these programs meet with families to determine the root cause of the attendance issues to determine what community resources could assist the families to ensure that students are in school and engaged.
- Safe Schools Healthy Students (SSHS) - Middletown SSHS project identifyied and implemented strategies (i.e., parent outreach and engagement, policy change, best practices) to improve attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism through a coalition planning process. This occured with many partners including: Middlesex Coalition for Children Family Support Committee, Middletown Public Schools District Data Team, and Family School Connection. Identified district goals and objectives (parent communication and outreach) to address chronic absenteeism and student attendance occurred using third quarter attendance data. Middletown SSHS project also implemented a centralized data system to collect and analyze attendance of students enrolled in Middletown Public School Preschool Program in order to identify chronically absent students early. This was done through a partnership with the MPS Preschool Program and PowerSchool.
Topic: District Attendance Team Leadership
Strategy: District attendance teams
District: Middletown Public Schools
District Snapshot: 4,701 Students; 815 Hispanic/Latino; 2,424 White; 953 African American; 26 Schools; 9.1% chronic absence rate (2015-16) and 9.1% (2016-17)Contact Information: Enza Macri, Associate Superintendent, 860-638-1430, email@example.com