RSU 9 – Mt. Blue Middle School Initiates “Strive for Five” Initiative to Improve Absenteeism

Submitted by James Black, Principal, Mt. Blue Middle School

Strive for Five Campaign

The Strive for 5 campaign at Mt. Blue Middle School was initiated after a routine end of the year audit on student data. After my first year as the principal of MBMS I wanted to see what our data, including attendance, said about my first year as principal. We reviewed academic, behavioral and demographic data to see deficiencies and strengths in order to create school wide goals. One area of major concern for me was the attendance data. It showed that our school of 540 students missed a combined total of over 1,300 school days last year. These days did not include sick days, suspension days or parent excused. They only included days in which students did not show up to school and had no reason why.

After some discussions within our student assistance team and a little research on schools that had similar issues we decided to implement a program called Strive for 5. This program has seen success around the country on curbing chronic absenteeism. The basics of the initiative were to challenge students and parents to strive for 5 absences or less throughout this school year. These absences would include planned vacations, doctor/dental appointments and days in which students just do not come to school. It was equally important to have parents involved with this initiative as well. We found throughout our data, we had lots of parents scheduling appointments throughout the school day considering it not a true absence from school. We are slowly making improvements on our attendance

Throughout this year, we have seen a steady decrease in the number of absences despite the school population rising (See Chart A). It has taken a lot of work, including staff and student buy in, but we are now moving in the right direction. Some of the things we are doing to promote good attendance is have posters and signs hung around the building encouraging students to Strive for 5. We also have weekly competitions between communities (Each grade level is broken into two communities) to see which group has the lowest total number of absences on Friday. At our monthly student of the month assembly we recognize all students who have still 5 absences or less and the winning community (90 students) and the most improved community from the prior month (90 students) receive a reward for their effort. We have received lots of positive feedback so far but the proof will be in the pudding as they say. Early indications show things are improving but we still have four and a half months left to go.

Chart A – MBMS Absences

School Year Absences Student  Enrollment
2016/17 568 504
2017/18 610 521
2018/19 548 538