2014-06-25

By Laura Stapler, ’14

The ABC’s—attendance, behavior, and coursework—these are City Year corps member’s three areas of focus when supporting students. Part of our role as corps members was to foster a whole-school climate of reverence for and aspiration towards excellent performance in the ABC’s. Where attendance is concerned, initiatives to this end are spearheaded by each team’s Attendance Coordinator. At the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, this person is corps member Connor McCormick. We sat down with Connor before the end of his service year to learn about this role.

City Year Boston (CYB): Let’s start at the beginning. At the start of the year, what were your thoughts on the status of student attendance at the JFK? What were the primary initiatives you took in response?

Connor McCormick (CM): Attendance at the JFK has always been high overall. Chronic absences are less prevalent than tardies, and, as a whole, the school and students had a positive attitude around attendance. Because of this, I wanted to find a way to celebrate the whole-school attendance and leave the attendance coaching of individual students to the corps member serving in the student’s classroom. Each month, I helped organize a party with my team for the class who had the most days of whole-class perfect attendance. These parties were usually about 20 minutes long and consisted of anything from a kickball game against City Year, to a gingerbread decorating party, to a pancake breakfast.

CYB: How have these initiatives changed throughout the year?

CM: The main problem with the attendance [events] I described above was that it immensely favored classes with fewer numbers of students, which, consequently had an easier time achieving days of whole-class perfect attendance. There were really only two classrooms that ever won, so the rest of the school wasn’t really motivated by the potential party.

CYB: How did you adapt to overcome those challenges?

CM: In the last six weeks [of the service year we] implemented a “5 stars system,” in which each class gets a star for every day of whole-class perfect attendance. After a class achieves 5 stars, the students in that class will have earned an attendance event, regardless of the standing of any other class.

CYB: Is there anything else you are especially proud of? Or anything you feel is important to convey about your role as it pertains to whole-school attendance?

CM: Promoting solid attendance is about both getting the students excited about coming to school and getting them to hold themselves accountable for their presence and timeliness. Even at the elementary school level this is true; […] your attendance habits at age 9 or 10 will set you up for the rest of your school career.

If the students don’t attend school, they miss lessons and learning opportunities. Attendance is an essential component of student success. I think events my team and I designed for attendance parties are high energy, fun, and really give the students something to strive for. I believe we are helping bolster the attendance climate of the school, and of this I am very proud. 

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