The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading will be featured this week at Exponent Philanthropy’s National Conference in Chicago September 26-28. The Campaign’s attendance awareness work will be highlighted during the conference’s Hall of Outsized Impact, a display of philanthropic ideas from across the country that tell the story of an initiative beyond the dollar amount.
The conference brings together philanthropists from across the country, empowering leaders to leverage resources to amplify their impact in the world. Exponent Philanthropy’s members are committed to giving big, while keeping operations lean with few or no staff.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Attendance Awareness Poster Contest, funded by The Patterson Foundation, a member of Exponent Philanthropy, is one of only 43 projects or initiatives that was selected to be showcased.
Increasing School Attendance is one of the solution areas for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Statistics show that students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year, which equals two or three days a month, are at great risk of academic difficulties.
Many school districts report average daily attendance numbers, which can mask chronic absenteeism. By looking at specific children who are absent, and working with the families whose children are missing two or three days a month, schools can increase academic achievement across the board.
Through support from The Patterson Foundation, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is working with the School District of Manatee County and Sarasota County Schools to increase the awareness of the importance of regular attendance. In 2015, we were faced with this question: How do we reach as many children as possible, their teachers, and their parents with the message of the importance of regular attendance and it correlation to future success? The idea of a poster contest was proposed, and while many poster contests are held at schools, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s “Every Day Counts” contest took teacher and student engagement to a deeper level.
Although participation was voluntary, the poster contest templates were provided to every school, along with easily communicated information about attendance. Videos were produced to be played on the school news programs to show both teachers and students how easy it was to participate. Over 38,000 posters were created by students, all reflecting the every-day-counts message.
Reducing chronic absenteeism is now on the radar of both school districts. Each district has staff and teams that are delving deeper into why individual students are chronically absent. Thanks to the support of local media, this issue has been given visibility. Images of posters hung in community venues, such as the county fair and hallways of municipalities and schools, continue to be shared via social media.
Popular demand has called for repeating this initiative. Across the country, other communities engaged in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading are now replicating this model. The Patterson Foundation, with their investment in the Attendance Awareness Poster Contest, created outsized impact. It is an honor to share the success of this program with funders from across the country.