By Kira Ribas, City Year Cleveland ’16-’17
Studies indicate that students who show just one of three signs—poor attendance, disruptive behavior and course failure in Math and English—by sixth grade only have a 25 percent chance of graduating from high school on time. In 29 cities throughout the nation, City Year AmeriCorps members work one-on-one with students who display these signs, helping students get back on track to graduating from high school.
But how do City Year AmeriCorps members actually reach students who are showing these signs, particularly poor attendance? Current City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member Kira Ribas provides an in-depth look at how AmeriCorps members track and address student absenteeism to help students stay on track. Kira currently serves as a Team Leader at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary Academy in Cleveland, Ohio.
How do you address student attendance as part of your daily responsibilities as a City Year AmeriCorps member?
Kira Ribas (KR): In my current role, I run a “Tardy Table” every morning where I record students who are tardy, the reason, and parent contact information. Last year, as a first year AmeriCorps member, I was responsible for about 10 students who had been identified as struggling with attendance. Every week, I helped each student set goals on how they would improve their attendance, contacted parents about absences and checked in on their progress.
What strategies do you use to help students stay engaged and motivated to attend school every day?
KR: My team and I have hosted several attendance parties celebrating both perfect attendance and most improved attendance. I also help maintain a bulletin board that shows weekly attendance percentages by classroom, so students can look at how their class compares to other classes and maybe take part in some friendly competition.
During my first year as an AmeriCorps member, I created weekly raffles for students who were on time, providing winners with small prizes like snacks or toys. Students knew they could win something just by being on time, and it gave them something to look forward to in the morning.
How do you use data to analyze trends and patterns among absent students?
KR: We track tardiness and absences daily for a small group of students who are struggling with coming to school on time. City Year AmeriCorps members are able to quickly recognize patterns, such as a student always being absent on Tuesdays, and try to determine the root cause. As an Attendance Coordinator, I also analyze whole-school attendance data, usually tracking students who are chronically tardy or absent and trying to break down any barriers students face in getting to school on time. I will pass this information on to our administrative and district partners in the building so they can use it to inform future attendance campaigns and other work around attendance.
What strategies have been successful in getting through to students? How do you measure this?
KR: At times, a simple conversation works better than you would expect. Last year, I had a student who was absent and tardy a few times within the first couple of weeks of school. When I asked where he had been, he told me that he went to the store across the street and then decided not to go to school. He seemed surprised that I asked. After I checked in, he stopped coming late and was only absent for illness or doctor’s appointments for the rest of the year. Sometimes students just need to know that someone is paying attention.
Why do you think City Year AmeriCorps members play a unique role in supporting students with attendance?
KR: City Year AmeriCorps members are able to partner with teachers and administrators to support students that need some extra attention. When a student is absent or tardy, City Year AmeriCorps members can step in and make phone calls home while the teacher continues to teach the whole class. Our corps members can also help by creating individualized plans and setting goals with particular students.
What skills are you developing through your work on attendance as a City Year AmeriCorps member?
I am developing skills in collecting and analyzing data, community outreach, event planning, and relationship building. This work is way more complex than you might expect.
This blog is part six of our monthly series, "What Do AmeriCorps Members Do?" What else does the City Year AmeriCorps role involve? Read to learn more:
Part Eight: Run Afterschool Programs
Part Seven: Provide Positive Behavior Support
Part Five: Utilize Data to Meet Student Needs
Part Four: Build Relationships to Help Students Succeed
Part Three: Track Student Progress Using Data
Part Two: Own Unique Responsibilities as Coordinators
Part One: Tutoring and Teamwork