As the backbone organization for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Manatee County, the United Way’s first area of focus is attendance because we believe that it is foundation for academic success. If our children are not in school regularly, their chances of succeeding plummet.
Many of our students are already starting school two years behind, then they go on to miss more than 10 days of school and they continue to fall behind. Currently, 10,000 students are identified as being chronically absent, or missing 18 days of school a year, in the Manatee-Sarasota region.
Seeing the need for a conduit to share learning, discovery and connectivity between parents and our children in Manatee County’s Title I schools, the district hired 25 Graduation Enhancement Technicians (GETS). Their sole purpose is to work with families in our Title I schools who are struggling with getting their children to school and keeping them there throughout the day. The GETS work with school social workers (who have had a half day added to their week), when necessary, to educate and reduce barriers faced by families.
Some of the things being done to support this effort are:
Another step forward is that an Early Learning Community Task Force has been formed (MCPS, Manatee Community Action Agency, and Early Learning Coalition) that will support the work and goals of attendance in Manatee County. As a task force, they have collectively pulled, analyzed, and studied their attendance data. Based on the data, they have made collaborative decisions for each of their organizations that support initiatives to increase attendance, including:
The goal of the Early Learning Community Task Force is to collaborate, leverage resources, and implement initiatives that will address the needs of all early learners and their families in our community in order to ensure their present and future successes.
They intend to develop a framework that will enable other organizations in the state to replicate their work for the benefit all early learners throughout our state.