2015-02-17

By Max Mays, AmeriCorps Member, Heinemann and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Supported Team,
Serving at Henry Wilson Elementary School

Schools across the country allocate a substantial amount of time attempting to improve in-class educational instruction and testing. But for many institutions, all of this hard work will be unfounded if a greater problem is not corrected. Chronic absenteeism remains one of the most significant hindrances towards student success. When a student misses class, his/her academic development stalls. On the surface level, it is obvious that missed classes mean missed lessons and testing. However, other underlying issues persist. Often, when students are gone for long periods of time, their anxiety about returning to school can burgeon. Students who miss class also lose the valuable opportunity to create a routine, which makes academic diligence more difficult. 

These problems can seem irreversible, especially when considering that many of the factors that cause absenteeism to occur. At the Henry Wilson School, and more broadly throughout the entire City Year community, we are targeting the problem head on. Each City Year Corps Member meets with a group of students who struggle with attendance. During these meetings, the Corps Members speak openly with the students about being chronically absent and/ or tardy and attempt to find solutions. During a meeting with one of my attendance focus list students, I found out that his presence in school was inconsistent because he lacked an alarm clock. After several conversations with his parents, my student received an alarm clock, which he promptly placed in his bedroom. 

Beyond the individual attention, the City Year team at Henry Wilson Elementary School has also engaged students and staff with a school-wide attendance competition. On a massive poster in the gymnasium, each classroom’s monthly attendance percentage is tracked. The classroom with the highest attendance at the end of each month is rewarded with a golden Timberland boot. In reference to the competition, Henry Wilson Corps Member and Attendance Coordinator Katrina Herrera stated, “The school wide attendance initiative has encouraged students to arrive to school on time!” It is our expectation that these attendance initiatives will have a great impact on our school’s community. 

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