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September 7, 2016

Moving the Needle During Attendance Awareness Month

With Labor Day behind us, we are focusing on September, which is national Attendance Awareness Month. Here’s a look at how year’s activities to raise awareness and improve attendance in Sarasota and Manatee counties created momentum heading into this new school year.

Strategies that encourage good attendance habits are key as the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading continues on a path to ensure all children read on grade level by the end of third grade.

Last year, Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, a national attendance initiative, came to our region to share research with our community. At the same time, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading launched its inaugural Attendance Awareness Poster Contest.

Some 38,000 students from the two counties submitted clever and eye-catching posters, and awards were handed out at the school and regional levels. Winners were honored at a special performance of Circus Sarasota. This year, we are bringing the contest back and look forward to sharing the posters with you.

We know that good attendance works for students, but have our efforts worked?

Sarasota County schools are using self-calculating spreadsheets and attendance tracking tools and are able to analyze attendance down to each individual student. Manatee schools implemented the GETs project by redirecting Title I funds to hire Graduation Enhancement Technicians (GETs) for every Title I school — from elementary to high school. The 25 GETs focus on using data to pinpoint chronically absent students rather than relying on a school’s average daily attendance. They investigate the “whys” of chronic absenteeism at each school and work to eliminate those barriers.

Sarasota County elementary schools reported an 11.4 percent decrease in absenteeism in the second quarter and a 7.5 percent decrease in the third quarter. The 15 Title I schools in Manatee County reported reductions in absenteeism ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent for the second and third quarters. We have much more to do, but these results are encouraging.

We’ll be sharing more progress from our efforts, including updates about summer learning — one of the main solution areas– as well as parent engagement and health, two issues that inform and support all of the Suncoast Campaign’s strategies.

Contact us to learn how you can join the many individuals and organizations that are connecting, collaborating, and creating to ensure success for all of our children.

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