By now we have bypassed the first progress report and approached the end of the first marking period. For us, we found a few themes present in the data we collected about students that are failing or in danger of failing one or more core classes. This may be all too familiar to you. Absences, tardies, missing classwork, and conduct have presented themselves as barriers to academic success. Now you may find yourself saying “duh, we already knew that!” Which is why I spoke of the themes being familiar ones. The purpose of this post is to push past what we know and move towards what we do know. You know the action steps. This is what we have done with our partner schools to address the issues present in these themes.
Absences and Tardies
When a student is absent from school and/or tardy, we know that they suffer academically because they are not present to participate in the learning experiences and complete classwork, quizzes, and tests. In other words, having a high attendance rate is important because students are more likely to succeed in academics when they attend school consistently. When a student is not present, it is difficult for the teacher to build their skills. However, the reasons why students are absent are very telling. Through conducting over 4,400 weekly home visits of students who are absent or late to school this school year, we found reasons that may drive your interventions.
First, we found during our daily home visits that parents assume their child made it to school because they left the house. Early parental notification to students who are trending towards being chronically absent is a key component of making all stakeholders aware of this issue.
Second is student illnesses. Addressing this issue is often handled after the student returns, which results in the student falling behind. Seeking other ways to get the student missing classwork prior to their return may be helpful.
A final example of a reason that we found for student absences is a lack of student interest. Now this reason is pretty loaded. On the surface students have reported during the home visits that they are not interested in school, or a teacher in particular. Subsequently, a deeper dive into this reason reveals information about the students’ ability to perform in class, or traumatic experiences that take place at the school. An example of these experiences is being chosen to read in front of the class and not being able to read. Another example is being setup on a contract to be promoted to the next grade and not having the ability to meet the requirements of the contract. I could go on and on but, I believe you get the gist of what I am describing.
OK, I know that I am presenting another obvious reason about students’ low academic performance but, let us use the implications of the data collected during home visits. Concentric Educational Solutions core service is related to increasing attendance. Now our thought is that if a student is present in school, they will have a better chance at accessing and participating in the learning environment. Thus, giving them an opportunity for academic success. Unfortunately, chronic absenteeism is a national problem. Further, chronic absenteeism suggests that students are not completing work due to them not being present to complete it. Considering all of the reasons that students may decide not to come to school, we must identify ways to extend the learning environment to reach them where they are. One suggestion might be identifying why students are not present to complete work. Another suggestion is identifying ways to encourage student participation in resources like Coach Classes and after-school tutoring, or social-emotional support that will assist with skill development.
Student conduct in the classroom is a multifaceted subject. First, there is the outcome of poor conduct on the student’s academic performance. Second, there is the impact on the rest of the class. Lastly, there is the residual impact on the relationship between the teacher and the student.
During visits at our partner schools we learned that the transformational relationship that should exist between students and teachers has been severely damaged in many cases. Restorative justice provides an opportunity for the repairing of damaged relationships between students and their educational environment. However, we have to develop ways to repair the relationships between students and school-based staff.
While absences, tardies, missing classwork, and conduct have presented themselves as barriers to academic success, they also provide opportunities to positively impact students. We can do this through the proper use of home visits, providing opportunities to make up classwork, and repairing damaged relationships between teachers and students.
Concentric Educational Solutions’ approach involves taking the time to develop relationships with families, teachers and administrators with the student’s success serving as the primary goal. We do this through our Home Visit Framework and our in-school support (SEL Groups, MTSS, In-class Assistance, Curriculum Support, etc.). Home visits are an opportunity for our Professional Student Advocates to learn from the parents firsthand about the student they are both trying to support. During the time spent getting to know your students, we learn why each student and their family is unique. Our staff uses this knowledge of the families to drive our in-school support; helping teachers and administrators enhance their daily practices. Home visits can also increase collaboration between schools and families and result in improved academic achievement in the classroom, empowerment for parents, and motivation for students.
Written By Michael Gary Jr., Ph.D. and Bahiya Augustin Ed.S.