The 3rd Grade Reading Action Network of Bold Goals Education is focusing on improving attendance in the early grades. The Network decided to focus on attendance, not only because of the growing body of national research that connects poor attendance with lower levels of reading proficiency, but also because local teachers and school administrators confirmed that many Central Alabama schoolchildren are struggling with attendance. If you would like to learn more about the importance of attendance, you can read research briefs here and here, as well as some helpful news articles here and here. You can also see more of the work going on at the national level through the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Through Bold Goals Education, Central Alabama will be joining the Campaign in 2016.
Here in Central Alabama, our work toward improving attendance is moving forward step-by-step. The first step is to analyze attendance data at the school level to identify areas where the community can support improvement. Right now we’re analyzing data at Oliver Elementary School and the Tarrant City Schools. When analyzing the attendance data, the network members are looking for answers to several key questions, such as: What is the overall student attendance rate for the school? How many school days does the average student miss each year? How many students are missing enough days to be considered chronically absent?
The second step is to take action based on our analysis of the data. The Network will work closely with the schools to provide aligned services directly to children and families who are struggling with chronic absences. These services may include medical referrals, childcare assistance, after-school care, or assistance with transportation and housing. The Network is also organizing partners and developing messages for a broad public-awareness campaign about the importance of attendance. The messages will be shared in traditional media, social media, and throughout agencies that provide services for children and families in the community. As we move forward, we will review our successes and challenges, refine our strategies, and scale them up to reach more and more students in Central Alabama.