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John Monfredo: Worcester’s New Plan to Attack Chronic Absenteeism

Saturday, November 30, 2013

 

If we are to address the achievement gap in education, the first place to start is with attendance issues, believes John Monfredo.

Our nation’s education system is based on the supposition that barring illness or an unexpected event, students are in class every school day. So strong is this assumption that it is not even measured. It is a very rare that the state education department, school district or principal can tell you how many students have missed 10% or more of the school year or in the previous year missed a month or more of school… two common definitions of chronic absence.

A Serious Issue

This issue is quite serious and now has caught national attention for students need to attend school daily to succeed. Achievement, especially in math, is very sensitive to attendance and in addition absence affects standardized test scores, graduation and dropout rates. If we are to address the achievement gap in education, the first place to start is with attendance issues.

Keep in mind that a school can have an average daily attendance of 90% and still have 40% of its students chronically absent, because on different days, different students make up that 90%. The Worcester Public Schools, like all urban centers, does have pockets of chronic absenteeism. If we look at the overall statistics our Elementary Schools have an attendance rate of 95.2%, our Middle Schools have an attendance rate of 94.4% and our High Schools have a rate of 92.4%. Those figures look fine but when you delve into the data further you find that 15.2% of low-income students system-wide were absent over 10 percent of the time. Over all, in 2011, over 3,200 students were labeled as chronic absenteeism…absent more than 10% of the school year.

This week at the Worcester Public Schools standing committee on Teaching, Learning and Student Support, in an on-going item that I filed on chronic absenteeism this issue was addressed. Through the efforts of the Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Marco Rodrigues, a committee made up of partners within the community has been established and are addressing this issue. The group has been working diligently for the first step was to develop a strategic plan to include an Attendance Awareness Campaign to address this issue and ways to improve daily school attendance for all students.

Every School Day Counts Campaign

Starting in September the district launched a campaign entitled, “Attendance Matters…every school day counts!” A proclamation was introduced by Mayor Petty with the idea of the City of Worcester hoping to promote a “culture of attendance” amongst its students. All schools have informed families of the initiative and about building activities through monthly newsletters. Schools were provided with Attendance Works toolkits outlining ideas, and activities to address the issue of chronic absenteeism with parents and families. Another initiative within the district has been to establish an asthma pilot program with UMass to support families and students with asthma related issues and absences. This pilot will bring awareness by connecting existing asthma resources at schools and in the community to families in need.

In addition, Worcester Superintendent Boone sent a message to all students through the Connect-Ed message and to the media outlets emphasizing the importance and the benefits of daily attendance. The district is also exploring possibilities of having local leaders participate in Connect-Ed messages to families emphasizing the importance of daily school attendance throughout the year. Another means of spreading the message of the importance of daily school attendance will be through Public Service Announcements, local media outlets and signs on the WRTA buses.

At the meeting this week I also made three motions for administration to consider:

  • That we continue to flag students with chronic absenteeism, as part of the early warning system, and work with students and families in reducing the absence rate.
  • That we continue with our Public Relations awareness campaign on attendance.
  • That we have our schools, as part of their school improvement plan, to include strategies in addressing chronic absenteeism and set a bench mark on reducing the percentage of chronic absences at their schools.

 

My goal is that through this attendance campaign is to have all schools understand the purpose of the campaign on chronic absenteeism and have them be pro-active in addressing the issue. Hopefully, let’s consider to utilize school attendance incentives such as attendance ceremonies, special trips for those students with high attendance and rewarding parents whose children regularly attend.

Consequences of Missing School

The bottom line is that missing school matters a great deal, especially to our low income students. Because students reared in poverty benefit the most from being in school, one of the most effective strategies for providing pathways out of poverty is to do what it takes to get these students in school every day. This alone, even without improvements in the education system, will drive up achievement, high school graduation, and college attainment rates.

The research is in and as Hedy Chang, director of the nationwide Attendance Works program stated at a conference to educators, "You want to improve test scores? Get your kids to show up.” She went on to say, "You can innovate all you want, but if the kid’s not there, the benefit from the innovation is going to have limited impact." This may seem obvious, but the overwhelming data about under-performing schools and the failures of the public schools can lead people to believe that missing some school days won’t matter much. But the emerging evidence argues the opposite.

Other research states… Children who are chronically absent in the pre-k and first grade have lower second grade test scores and are less likely to read proficiently in grade three and for children who attend kindergarten less than 80% of the time only 45% are proficient in reading and 46% in math at grade three.

Therefore, let’s keep the “fire burning” on this all-important issue for the good news is if we do measure and monitor absenteeism there is quite a bit that can be done to improve it with existing resources. It has to be an all out community effort to make sure that our students are ready, willing, and able to attend school every day. Let’s all be part of the solution!
 

 

Related Slideshow: Central MA School Districts with the Highest Teacher Evaluations

During the 2012-2013 school year, Race to the Top (RTTT) districts in Massachusetts were required to implement the new Educator Evaluation framework with at least 50 percent of their educators district-wide. Of Central Massachusetts’s 52 school districts, 26 implemented the Educator Evaluation structure. These 26 school districts are listed below ranked from the lowest teacher evaluation score to the highest. Keep reading to see where your district’s teachers rank, as well as to view the state and regional averages.

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State Average

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 7.4%

Percentage with proficient scores: 85.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 6.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.7%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 37,940

Total number of educators evaluated: 61,441

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Central MA Average

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 5.1%

Percentage with proficient scores: 88.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 6.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.04%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 8,843

Total number of educators evaluated: 5,987

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#26 Quaboag

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 6.3%

Percentage with proficient scores: 75.0%

Percentage that need improvement: 18.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 131

Total number of educators evaluated: 80

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#25 Oxford

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 8.7%

Percentage with proficient scores: 73.9%

Percentage that need improvement: 17.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 168

Total number of educators evaluated: 46

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#24 Uxbridge

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 84.2

Percentage that need improvement: 15.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 162

Total number of educators evaluated: 19

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#23 Fitchburg

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 8.6%

Percentage with proficient scores: 77.3%

Percentage that need improvement: 13.3%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.9%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 456

Total number of educators evaluated: 233

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#22 Westborough

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 1.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 86.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 10.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 1.5%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 335

Total number of educators evaluated: 67

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#21 Lunenburg

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 1.4%

Percentage with proficient scores: 87.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 10.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 1,209

Total number of educators evaluated: 495

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#20 North Brookfield

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 2.7%

Percentage with proficient scores: 86.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 10.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 59

Total number of educators evaluated: 37

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#19 Millbury

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 3.3%

Percentage with proficient scores: 87.9%

Percentage that need improvement: 6.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 2.2%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 158

Total number of educators evaluated: 91

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#18 Blacktone-Millville

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 10.6%

Percentage with proficient scores: 81.9%

Percentage that need improvement: 7.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 162

Total number of educators evaluated: 94

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#17 Southbridge

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 9.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 83.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.7%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 212

Total number of educators evaluated: 152

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#16 Worcester

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 6.2%

Percentage with proficient scores: 87.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.4%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 1,859

Total number of educators evaluated: 1,825

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#15 Webster

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 10.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 83.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 159

Total number of educators evaluated: 101

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#14 Hudson

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 3.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 90.8%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.2%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 288

Total number of educators evaluated: 153

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#13 Gardner

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 3.3%

Percentage with proficient scores: 91.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.0%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 227

Total number of educators evaluated: 120

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#12 Dudley-Charlton

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 6.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 88.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 4.2%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.6%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 320

Total number of educators evaluated: 168

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#11 Northbridge

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 95.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 4.0%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 229

Total number of educators evaluated: 200

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#10 Winchendon

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.7%

Percentage with proficient scores: 95.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 3.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 139

Total number of educators evaluated: 137

Photo: Flickr/AdmissionsQuest

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#9 Bellingham

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 1.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 95.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 3.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 215

Total number of educators evaluated: 206

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#8 Quabbin

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 4.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 92.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.5%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.5%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 207

Total number of educators evaluated: 199

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#7 Grafton

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 97.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 253

Total number of educators evaluated: 178

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#6 Ralph C. Maher

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 2.6%

Percentage with proficient scores: 94.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 79

Total number of educators evaluated: 76

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#5 Marlborough

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 96.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 434

Total number of educators evaluated: 423

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#3 Auburn (Tied)

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 99.1%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 202

Total number of educators evaluated: 116

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#3 Leominster (Tied)

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 99.1%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 523

Total number of educators evaluated: 332

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#2 Wachusett

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 29.1%

Percentage with proficient scores: 70.3%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 534

Total number of educators evaluated: 334

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#1 Douglas

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 9.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 90.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.0%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 123

Total number of educators evaluated: 105

 
 

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