Bright Spot: Valley Springs Elementary P.A.W.S. for Good Attendance
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.
Valley Springs Elementary offered a variety of incentives to encourage good attendance as part of its P.A.W.S. for Good Attendance effort. Every nine weeks, the school held an assembly and recognized students with good attendance with small awards such as medallions, pencils and ribbons. These students would also be entered in a raffle and one boy and one girl would receive a bicycle. Two additional students would get to bring home a gifts certificate from a local restaurant.
The school also has a therapy dog and used him to encourage good attendance for targeted students. For example, one fourth grader was missing a lot of school. He loved the therapy dog so school leadership assigned him the responsibility of taking the dog for a walk twice a day. This student realized how important this responsibility was and started attending school more.
While the incentives worked for some students, the attendance team at the school will implement more targeted strategies next year for students that are consistently chronically absent. The school secretary made phone calls weekly when students reached three absences in a nine-week period, but the attendance team recognizes that they need to build relationships with these families earlier to help provide necessary supports.