The Sarasota County School District is working on improving attendance at every grade level in every school. With support from Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, The Sarasota County School District is driving improvements in attendance with data. The School District is utilizing data tools created by Attendance Works to identify areas needing improvement as well as programs and practices that are yielding results. This fall, a new attendance dashboard debuted on the Sarasota County Schools’ website.
Attendance information on the dashboard is updated every ten school days. The Attendance dashboard gives parents, school administrators, teachers, and the community actionable data to use to reduce chronic absenteeism.
The Sarasota County School District Task Force’s Attendance Committee has been busy reviewing and updating district procedures and putting a “name and face” on the children who are chronically absent. Schools have creatively responded — for example, providing mentors for each child, instituting incentives, and creating Attendance Plans. Many of the ideas for data collection and school action plans are from a Toolkit put together from resources found at www.attendanceworks.org.
Tuttle Elementary School is a shining example of a well-coordinated team approach to reducing chronic absenteeism and one of four schools in Sarasota County working closely with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. In 2014, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County began to work with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and chose to focus where they believe their donors’ dollars would make the most significant impact. The attendance zones for four Title 1 schools with students who are most challenged by achieving reading success — Alta Vista Elementary School, Tuttle Elementary School, Gocio Elementary School, and Emma E. Booker Elementary School.
With support from the Sarasota County School District and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Tuttle Elementary School has a full-time social worker on staff as well as a home school liaison and an attendance monitor. Last school year, the Attendance Monitor position funded by Title I funds was full-time. Title I budget cuts for this school year has reduced the position to part-time.
Tomas Dinverno – Principal
Scott Parrish – Assistant Principal
Dawn Clements – Social Worker
Kenny Cox – Home School Liaison
Lucero Cordova – Attendance Monitor
This team works together using Attendance Works data to identify students with attendance concerns. The school communicates with the families, and if necessary, refers the families to the home school liaison.
The home school liaison does a needs assessment to determine barriers that are preventing students from coming to school every day. Some common barriers include lack of school supplies and uniforms, illness, and unreliable transportation. Once barriers are identified, the home school liaison will work with the school and family to develop a solution, often utilizing the Student Emergency Fund (SEF).
In partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation established the SEF endowment recognizing that the Community Foundation of Sarasota County is well positioned to manage and coordinate aid delivery due to its successful management of other community resources. The success of the endowment is largely due to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s commitment to supporting and managing the fund. The Community Foundation works with school principals to ensure that resources are quickly and efficiently distributed to help children receive what they need to learn without distractions caused by their economic circumstances.
Children face many challenges on a daily basis; the SEF aims to eliminate at least one of them. Use of this fund has positive, long-term implications for the community because children who can focus on learning grow up to become more active and engaged members of society. Sarasota County Public Schools provides program implementation.
This school year, Tuttle Elementary School has utilized the SEF to purchase school supplies and school uniforms, medication, and bicycles for students who lack transportation to school. SEF funds were used to buy three bikes for a Tuttle family so that all three students could get to school on a regular basis. Since the purchase of the bikes, the attendance of the three students has greatly improved. On a separate occasion, SEF funds were used to purchase a baby seat to go on a parent’s bike so that the mom could supervise her Tuttle student coming to school while caring for her toddler.
This team approach is working: