It’s the start of another school day, and the hallways fill with the small bright faces of students on their way to class. But what you don’t see is also a normal part of each school day: kids who should be in school, but aren’t. Too many students are “chronically absent”—missing 19 or more days of school per year. This was the case for brothers Tyreek and Christian, who had each missed more than 39 days.
The Healthy and Ready to Learn initiative at this school identified chronic absenteeism as a major obstacle in children’s academic success. With each day that’s missed, a child is at risk of falling behind, getting lower test scores, and repeating a grade. That’s where the “Rockets” attendance program comes in.
Ginelle Wynter, PS 36 Site Manager, meets daily with those students with the greatest absenteeism to emphasize the importance of regular attendance, help students track their attendance, and celebrate their accomplishments. But it’s not enough just to work with the children: parents and caregivers must be active partners in getting the children to school each day.
A long process but with incredible results
This can be a long process, but it can bear incredible results. Two years ago, when Ginelle invited Tyreek and Christian’s parents to work with her on attendance, the father agreed to try. The first year there were more excuses than results, but Ginelle believed that if she continued to reach out to the family and make herself available to them for other concerns, they would realize they had someone at the school they could trust. And this is exactly what happened. She was for example able to act quickly when the father raised concerns that his older son was being bullied in school.
“When I first met them, they were missing over 50 days of school a year and now they are in school almost every day.”— Wenimo Okoya, Director of Healthy and Ready to Learn
“I had the pleasure of working with Tyreek and Christian and it has been incredible to see the growth they’ve made,” says Wenimo Okoya, Director of Healthy and Ready to Learn. “When I first met them, they were missing over 50 days of school a year and now they are in school almost every day. I saw Tyreek the other day and his confidence when showing me his science experiment was tangible!”
How big a difference has this made? The last time the boys ran up asking “Miss Wynter, how many days have I gone to school in a row?” Ginelle was able to tell them they had accomplished something huge – one brother had perfect attendance for the past two months and the other for three!
Tyreek and Christian beamed with pride, hugged Ginelle, and are looking forward to a very special end-of-year celebration – and a bright future.