During the 2017-2018 school year, the Arkansas Community Foundation provided mini-grants to seven schools to enhance ongoing or new efforts to reduce chronic absence that are a part of a school’s or district’s overall chronic absence reduction plan.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Oscar Hamilton Elementary in Foreman, Ark. developed strategies to incentivize students to attend school and also to educate parents and teachers about the importance of attending every day. “Make Every Day Count at OHE” recognized students that were absent 0-1 days that month with their name on a “gator track” placed down the hallway as a visible reminder to students to attend school every day. Those students also received tickets for a drawing in December and May for bicycles and Chromebooks.
In the classroom, teachers displayed daily attendance graphs and talked about why it is important to be in school. The class with the best overall average attendance for the month was given a traveling trophy engraved with OHE Make Every Day Count. The school also took multiple opportunities to educate parents and teachers. During all parent-teacher conferences and other parent activities, information was handed out about attendance and its importance to student achievement. School leadership also used professional development time to present data about the correlation of chronic absence and reading on grade-level. This information increased awareness across staff.
Oscar Hamilton targeted the Kindergarten grade specifically during the year to reach students early in their elementary school career. This grade had the lowest chronic absence rate at the school of 7 percent. School administrator reflect that for next year, they plan to put less of an emphasis on prizes and work to build more intrinsic motivation and a deeper understanding of a school culture that places a priority on school attendance.