A student who is chronically absent during high school is seven times more likely to drop out and miss the academic gains, connections to caring adults, and support for future orientation that schools can provide. According to research compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, school engagement and attendance is a factor that contributes to healthy adolescent development and reduces the risk of violence involvement.

While Chicago Public Schools reported hitting a District record of 93.4% in the 2015-2016 school year, high schools in Get IN Chicago’s focus communities had an average attendance rate of 83%.  Get IN Chicago reviewed 12 of its funded programs that set out to increase school attendance and discovered a few notable traits associated with positive outcomes.   On the whole, programs showing the most success utilized approaches that addressed root causes of chronic absenteeism with a multi-faceted approach, as opposed to focusing on coaching for better attendance alone.  Below are three specific strategies linked to positive school attendance outcomes.

UCAN youth and mentors at a basketball game

A UCAN program supported by Get IN Chicago reported that 85% of its youth either maintained or improved school attendance from the previous semester.  Further, 100% of their participants either remained in school or re-enrolled.

 

Individualized service plans: Individualized service plans were a common feature among programs reporting positive outcomes in a number of areas, including attendance.  Programs utilizing this approach generally used a collaborative method to identify issue areas and set goals, working in tandem with young people, their families, and other key adults, such as probation officers or teachers.  Further, individual service plans necessitated individual follow-up, and many programs that emphasized consistent, structured check-ins saw young people achieve their goals.  This strategy helped Youth Advocate Programs, who reported that 95% of youth in their programs improved school attendance over the course of 2015-2016 school year.

Availability outside of school: Programs that provided support beyond school hours, including on-call mentoring resources, were linked with better attendance as well.  “Many of our youth have never had their parents, uncles or aunts attend any of their basketball, softball, and volleyball games,” shared staff from UCAN. “They have emphasized how much they appreciate their Youth Development Coaches (YDCs) coming to their competitions and cheering for them, and we have seen them become closer to the YDCs as a result.”  Using this strategy as part of their approach, UCAN reported that 85% of their youth either maintained or improved attendance from the previous semester during a recent Get IN Chicago grant term.  Further, 100% of their participants either remained in school or re-enrolled.

Close collaboration with school administration: Strong relationships with school officials also went a long way toward supporting successful outcomes.  Partnerships facilitate data sharing necessary for measuring improvement, and they also help programs target resources toward students with the greatest need and utilize the expertise of school officials.  Working in conjunction with the administration of Hirsch High School, KLEO was able to make a concentrated effort with students flagged as truant or chronically absent. In 2015-2016, KLEO reported that their participants had a school attendance rate of 87% by the program’s completion.  Further, the school-wide attendance hit 76%, the highest it had been in six years, and the school administration noted that their dropout rate was at an all-time low.

KLEO mentor with Hirsch HS football player

In 2015-2016, KLEO reported that their participants had a school attendance rate of 87% by the program’s completion. Further, the school-wide attendance hit 76%, the highest it had been in six years, and the school administration noted that their dropout rate was at an all-time low.