This week, alarm clocks will sound off throughout Baltimore city signaling parents, students and teachers to awaken for the first week of school. Some will bounce right out of bed eager to start the day while others will hit the snooze button hoping for an extra five minutes of sleep. Why should there be a mad rush for the front door? Because this week marks the start of brand new school year for 84,000 Baltimore City Public Schools students.
Why is it so important for every student to attend every day during the first week of school? Because research shows that strong student attendance is a critical component of making sure students succeed in school. And the expectation of strong attendance is necessary for creating great school experiences.
Expectations this year are clear—schools should engage in community partnerships to encourage better attendance, parents should make sure their children attend school, and students should attend every class. Those of us that have studied student attendance patterns know that solving the problem of chronic absenteeism cannot be done with a “one solution fits all” approach. Rather, attendance interventions should be comprehensive, student and family-based, and utilize community resources.
In connection, City Schools is implementing a robust Back to School Strategy that includes:
- making automated calls to every household to remind parents about the importance of attending school from the very first day
- implementing community-wide door knocking campaigns to houses of students who had significant absences in prior year
- mailing letters to parents of incoming 9th graders about the connection between attendance and graduation
- developing school wide attendance teams to contact parents early about student absences
- providing incentives that matter to students (when identifying appropriate incentives poll students in the school)
- utilizing text messaging for high school students
- utilizing automated calls from “a person of interest” to generate personalized wake-up calls
- collaborating with community groups for incentivizing the whole school community (students, parents, and school staff )
- helping families connect to needed resources such as health insurance, immunizations, school supplies, school uniforms, school meals, before and after school programs, school homeless liaisons, and food pantries
- ensuring that schools have accurate contact information for all students
- working with schools to ensure that classrooms are safe, engaging, and promote healthy learning environments
Are these strategies audacious? I will leave that up to you to decide. However, I do know that City Schools requires the support of all students, parents, families, teachers and community leaders to create the best possible year for all students and in particular our 2012 high school graduates.
Wishing everyone a productive, safe and memorable 2011-2012 school year.