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.
Greenbrier Springhill Elementary in Greenbrier, Ark. experimented with two, accompanying strategies to reduce chronic absence during the 2017-2018 school year. The first strategy, the Ninja Warrior Growth Mindset Challenge, was offered to all students. Students worked as a classroom to get 12 days of perfect attendance so their class could attend the Ninja Warrior Day. Out of 19 classrooms, 15 classes earned the Ninja Warrior Day. All students who had perfect attendance also attended the Ninja Warrior Day, even if their class did not achieve the goal. The school posted daily absent and tardy number outside the office where parents drop off their students and classroom data was shared in the weekly parent announcement along with resources for parents.
The second strategy targeted an at-risk group of students with an after-school music program. The group of students stayed afterschool two days a week with the music teacher to learn the guitar, drums and piano. After learning all the instruments, they choose one instrument to specialize in and created a band. The group held try-outs for a lead singer and put on multiple performances for the school and community. The students that participated in the Very Important Panthers (VIP) program never wanted to miss school so they could attend VIP each week.
Greenbrier Springhill staff are using disaggregated data to understand where shifts in chronic absence rates occurred. Second grade chronic absence rates decreased from 10 to 9 percent and third grade rates decreased from 11 to 10 percent. But overall rates increased from 10 to 14 percent with the largest spike in fifth grade. However, during the Ninja Warrior Growth Mindset challenge, attendance rates increased by 10 percent across the school.