School Attendance Teams
In Meriden, the entire district works together to fight chronic absence. District leaders have been working with the national organization Attendance Works and the state Chronic Absence Strategic Action Group on chronic absenteeism to learn best practices. School leaders from across the district meet to share effective strategies from their schools with one another. In schools, teachers are leading to create positive cultures of attendance with friendly competitions to incentive good attendance in their classrooms. Even students share in the sense of ownership, with high school students and fifth-graders providing mentorship to younger students. This culture of attendance was built on existing district strengths, including regular Thursday professional development sessions and existing school culture and climate teams, rather than reinventing the wheel.
Once among Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools, Meriden’s John Barry School has become a vibrant and welcoming community. Bringing together interventions like an extended day program with 100 extra minutes of school, climate support specialists to help students with behavioral challenges and effective school attendance teams, the team at John Barry has achieved significant gains.
The distinguishing characteristics of Meriden and John Barry School Attendance Teams include:
- “Covering All Bases”—School Attendance Teams represent the “whole child.” These groups are composed of school administrators, social workers, family school liaisons, school psychiatrists, school nurses, school-based therapists from community health centers, and even clerical staff.This group is effective because it “covers all bases” of what may be challenging the student, says family school liaison David Cardona, and “each one can chime in” to suggest interventions tailored to the specific needs of each student. These groups meet faithfully each week to review attendance data, ensuring that no student reaches the threshold for more intensive Tier III interventions “without us knowing what’s going on.”
- Authentic parent engagement—School attendance teams work in partnership with parents to support students. Front office staff are knowledgeable about types of absences and able to support parents to submit the correct documentation to excuse them.They make things easy for parents, including providing them with excuse note templates.Calls and texts from teachers, including a pilot program to use the Kinvolved app to send parents texts in their native language, have strengthened the bond between families and school staff. When more intensive interventions are needed, school staff and families work in partnership. Family school liaisons participate in meetings between parents and the school administrators to make family members feel more comfortable.In addition, family outreach workers conduct home visits to provide more intensive supports for families.
- Data-driven decisions—One challenge Meriden faced was ensuring that data was normed and easy to work with across the district. Trainings for clerical staff ensured that all schools were coding absences the same way. A new PowerSchool plugin, DecisionEd, has allowed attendance teams to pull targeted reports with ease.Now, school attendance teams are more easily able to make data-driven decisions aligned to specific student needs.
Meriden Public Schools was featured in Edutopia magazine’s “Schools that Work” series and the International Center for Leadership in Education gave John Barry School national recognition for its improvements, naming it one of 25 model schools nationwide at the 25th annual Model Schools Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
Topic: Effective School Attendance Teams
Strategy: School attendance teams
District: Meriden Public Schools
District Snapshot: 7,993 Students; 4,143 Hispanic/Latino; 2,535 White; 713 African American; 19 Schools; 12.7% chronic absence rate (2015-16) and 15.4% (2016-17)
Contact Information: David Cardona, Family School Liaison, 203-213-5832, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Korney, Holly. Edutopia. (2017, May 3). “Want to Improve a District? Let Teachers Lead the Way.” Retrieved from Edutopia: https://www.edutopia.org/article/want-improve-district-let-teachers-collaborate-holly-korbey.
- Lipiner, Bryan. Record-Journal. (2017, February 15). “Meriden elementary school receives national recognition for improvements.” Retrieved from Record-Journal: http://www.myrecordjournal.com/Archive/2017/02/MerJohnBarry-RJ-021517.