School improvement webinars offer tangible tips

With schools now settled into the new academic year, Maine DOE resumed our School Improvement Webinar Series this week. Perhaps not surprisingly for a session on increasing attendance, we had our best turnout yet, with more than 60 educators from the across the state participating.

Daily attendance is a key factor for determining school success. Emerging research shows that chronic absence can start as early as preschool and affect performance in later grades. Nationally, one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent. When students aren’t in class, they have to work twice as hard to catch up with the material that they missed, and teachers lose valuable class time helping them do so. Children living in poverty are more likely to be chronically absent at a young age because of challenges such as a lack of access to health care, housing insecurity and unreliable transportation. They may be more likely to suffer academically because of those missed days because their families often lack the resources to make up for lost time.

During the webinar, which can be viewed here, Maine schools shared their successful strategies for improving student attendance. All agreed communicating to families the importance of students attending school regularly and on-time was most important. This can be done through open houses, parent conferences, letters home in backpacks or mailed newsletters. Schools also need to share students’ daily schedule with families to ensure doctor or dentist appointments aren’t taking kids out of class during critical times of the day. If students are missing school, it’s important to work with families to better understand the reason. Developing individual action plans with the families of chronically absent students has also proven successful in getting kids to show up.

Maine schools have also gotten creative in celebrating attendance. One school has found Attendance Awards, given each ranking period, to be a successful motivator. Another gives out “Attendance Counts” wristbands for students, and gives them points toward a cross-class contest when they are spotted wearing them. Posting attendance data on a bulletin board in the school’s front lobby or in newsletters and on social media sends a message to students, families and faculty that showing up matters.

As part of Maine DOE’s commitment to being a resource to support all schools in their improvement efforts, we will offer several other free webinars in the coming weeks, including the following:

  • Supporting Common Core Implementation (ELA), Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Featuring Maine DOE’s Rachelle Tome, Lee Anne Larsen, Morgan Dunton and best practices from Maine schools. Join the webinar at http://stateofmaine.adobeconnect.com/r2ogee4zs8a/ or participate via phone at 877-455-0244 (using conference code 4690629793).
  • Supporting Common Core Implementation (Math), Thursday, Sept. 26 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Featuring Maine DOE’s Rachelle Tome, Michelle Mailhot and best practices from Maine schools. Join the webinar at http://stateofmaine.adobeconnect.com/r447hv5ci0e/ or participate via phone at 877-455-0244 (using conference code 4690629793).

Both sessions will overview implementation support available from Maine DOE and other resources; ideas for what schools can do as their local implementation of the updated Maine Learning Results moves forward, including how to effectively communicate with students and families; the timeline for Smarter Balanced roll-out; and much more. Recordings will be posted here following the sessions.

We hope you will join us for these webinars and that you find them valuable in your school improvement efforts. We at Maine DOE look forward to continuing to be a resource as you help Maine’s students reach their potential and leave school prepared for success in college, careers and civic life.