Strategies to reduce student absenteeism in Detroit show promise

May 30th, 2018
Larry Simmons, Nicole Johnson, Ines de Jesus, Emma Herdean, and Terry Whitfield at the meeting at The Skillman Foundation reviewing data from the pilot initiative for Every School Day Counts Detroit. Larry is Executive Director of Brightmnoor Alliance. Nicole is a Senior Fellow with Attendance Works. Ines is with Consultant Works. Emma is Community Schools Manager at Southwest Solutions. And Terry is a Program Officer with Skillman.

Teams working on a pilot initiative to improve student attendance in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) met at The Skillman Foundation recently to discuss some of the early results.

Iranetta Wright, Deputy Superintendent of Schools at DPSCD, speaks at the meeting at The Skillman Foundation reviewing the pilot initiative for Every School Day Counts Detroit.

The pilot is part of a citywide and long-term effort, called “Every School Day Counts Detroit,” involving DPSCD and community partners to drastically reduce chronic absenteeism. Attendance Works is providing expertise, tools and resources to help facilitate and build the concerted effort based on best practices and the latest research. Brightmoor Alliance and Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) served as lead community partners to implement strategies in seven schools participating in the pilot. In six of the seven schools, Southwest Solutions’ Community Schools Coordinators played a critical role as key members of the Attendance Teams that provided wraparound support, referrals and services to students and families who were chronically absent. The preliminary data from the pilot schools, which was reviewed at the Skillman meeting, shows some promising results.

At Bennett Elementary, for example, the percentage of chronically absent students dropped from 34% at the beginning of the school year to 19% in April. Part of this decrease could be attributed to an Attendance Buddies program started at the school and facilitated by Becky Dean, our Community Schools Coordinator there. This program matches chronically absent students with teachers and support staff who check on the students every day, call home when the students are absent, refer students and their families to needed resources, and develop positive relationships with the students so they feel a greater sense of belonging to the school and a greater commitment to their education going forward.

The chronic absenteeism rate in Detroit public schools was 56% last year, a staggering number that ranks as one of the highest in the nation. The ambitious goal of Every School Day Counts Detroit is to reduce the rate to 15% by 2027. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school for any reason.

The seven pilot schools are:

  • Ann Arbor Trail Elementary/Middle School
  • Douglass College Preparatory Academy
  • Golightly Education Center
  • Amelia Earhart Elementary/Middle School
  • Gompers Elementary/Middle School
  • Western High School
  • Bennett Elementary School
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