Student Absences: Getting Children to School

Grand Rapid Public Schools had a problem with student absences: Out of 17,000 students in the district, nearly 7,000 were chronic absentees, missing a month or more of school a year. You can’t teach kids who don’t come to school every […]

Grand Rapid Public Schools had a problem with student absences: Out of 17,000 students in the district, nearly 7,000 were chronic absentees, missing a month or more of school a year. You can’t teach kids who don’t come to school every day.

Enter Mel Atkins, the district’s executive director of community and students for the Grand Rapids Public Schools. A former principal and teacher, Atkins took a look at what other schools were doing. The following school year, Grand Rapids launched a districtwide push to improve student attendance. Guess what happened? Nothing. The yearlong effort flopped.

Instead of throwing up his hands, Atkins and a team of community partners went back to the drawing board. In his mind, the district had an obligation to reduce the number of student absences, no matter what might be doing on in kids’ homes. They came up with a simple but challenging slogan: “Strive for Less Than 5 Days Absent” and got the whole community involved.

Achieving Results

Two years later, Grand Rapids Public Schools has slashed the number of chronically absent students in the district in half.

You can read about how Atkins and the Grand Rapid community achieved such great results by clicking here.

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Bernadette Grey

Posted by Bernadette Grey