September is Attendance Awareness Month so we're focusing on Attendance: what causes absenteeism, why it matters and highlighting the work that City Year Jacksonville teams are doing in schools to help students and schools improve their attendance.


Why do students miss school? 

There are many factors that can make it difficult for a student to come to school, some have to do the student's engagement with their school: Do they feel both physically and emotionally safe at school? Do they feel connected to their peers and school community? Do they feel that they have the tools they need to be successful? Is there a caring adult who will support them each day and notice their absence if they're gone? Sometimes there are factors that might drive students away from school, but other times a student is being pulled away from school due to external factors such as: extra responsibilities (jobs or taking care of family members or other home responsibilities), parental involvement, as well as inconsistent basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing can all impact a student's ability to come to school. 

Why does it matter? What impact does attendance have on academic achievement?   

Missing a few days a of school may not seem like much, but every lesson and new concept builds on knowledge and skills that are covered in the days and weeks prior. 

Missing just a few days of school, especially for a student who may already struggle, can make staying on track very difficult.   

As early as 6th grade, if a student has below 90% attendance (missing school just a few days a month) it is considered an early warning indicator that the student may be off track to graduate from high school. Students who regularly miss school are also missing out on being in a language rich environment, benefiting from positive peer relationships and developing key social emotional learning skills.   


What is City Year Jacksonville doing?   

City Year AmeriCorps Members support students in both targeted interventions and whole school Activities. City Year AmeriCorps Members start their day before the official school day in order to greet every single student as they walk into school. By "Power Greeting" (chants and songs), giving high fives, shaking hands or even just greeting students by name, they are kicking off the day with positive energy and even more importantly, they are demonstrating to students that their presence in school matters and that there is an adult in the building who cares about them. 

City Year teams also create a culture of attendance by rewarding students with high attendance and celebrating attendance achievements through rewards and incentives. In addition to whole school initiatives, City Year AmeriCorps Members focus on a group of students who were chronically absent in the previous school year to provide one-on-one mentorship, help to get to the root of attendance issues, set goals, and make regular phone calls home. This type of one-on-one intervention works. In the 2015-2016 school year, City Year Jacksonville AmeriCorps Members worked with 791 students on their attendance and more than half of them improved their attendance to at or above 90% average daily attendance. In fact, at Highlands Middle School 76% of the students that AmeriCorps Members worked with, improved their average daily attendance from below 90% to at or above 90%. This one-on-one coaching, support and problem solving is helping more students be at school ready to learn.

The start of the school year is critical time as it sets positive habits for the rest of the year. While our AmeriCorps Members are starting to build positive relationships with students, City Year Jacksonville staff are working closely with each of our 12 school partnerships to identify students who were chronically absent last year. These identified students will comprise a group of over 765 students that AmeriCorps Members will provide extra attention, support, encouragement, calls home, and coaching to help them improve their attendance rates, and in turn their school engagement and academic achievement. 


Want to get involved? Interested in learning more? Check out these resources: 


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