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Attendance campaign rolls on

CMSD’s successful “Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” attendance campaign has quietly entered a second year, but its continues to make a strong push to ensure that students are in school as often as possible.

The Cleveland Browns Foundation is again taking the lead among partners who are providing money, promotional help or incentives. Other backers include Radio One, Arby’s Restaurants, Dave’s Supermarkets and multiple McDonald’s franchise owner Herb Washington.

Meanwhile, individual schools have picked up where they left off last year, encouraging good attendance and stressing its link to academic success.

Clark School Principal Amanda Rodriguez is trying to build on attendance that already averages more than 94 percent a day. The state standard is 93 percent.

Rodriguez recently had students stand at assemblies and be recognized for outstanding attendance in the first quarter, which ended Oct. 7. Large numbers found themselves in the spotlight.

Clark School staff members visit the homes of students who miss five or more days, Rodriguez said. In other cases, she schedules meetings with parents at school.

The school awards medals for perfect attendance in a grading period. A committee is discussing other perks for this year but will determine which options will be most effective.

“We first want to talk to the kids to see what they want,” Rodriguez said. “They’re going to work toward what they want.”

Another West Side school, Denison, gives a shout-out at weekly assemblies to students who were present for the previous week. Now, come the end of the year, those weeks could increase their chances of winning a handsome prize.

Each time a student is present for a week, he or she will be entered into a drawing. Compliments of a community partner, Dragon Financial Services, one boy and one girl per grade in kindergarten through fifth grade will win a bicycle at the end of the school year, while one girl and one boy in the sixth through eighth grades will win a Kindle.

Dragon Financial works with District employees on their retirement planning. Cleveland branch Manager Bill Roberts said donating prizes for good attendance is a way of giving back.

“We need to partner with the schools and take an interest in what they are there for,” said Roberts, who plans to offer similar incentives at an East Side school. “Their principal concerns are education and safety. That’s what we want to help with.”

The Browns Foundation has served as the campaign’s lead partner from the start, providing funds and other help, like donating game tickets for incentives, enlisting players to make school appearances and having them record pro-attendance videos for social media.

This year, a grant from the foundation to Shoes and Coats for Kids will buy uniforms and other clothing that will go to homeless students. A shortage of proper clothes can cause children to miss school.

Working with Radio One, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave Shoes and Coats for Kids $1 from every ticket sold to a performance Oct. 20 at Quicken Loans Arena.

The circus also awarded 500 circus tickets, divided between Iowa-Maple School and Collinwood High School, for the largest gains in “on-track” attendance when compared with the same point the previous year. That meant missing two days or fewer.

On Oct. 21, circus performers visited the school with the best attendance from Oct. 11-14.

Students were off on Monday, Oct. 10, so that Tuesday was designated as the school year’s first You Can Make It! Day. Attendance efforts are ramped up on such days, when students and families might be tempted to extend breaks and long weekends.

Buhrer Dual Language School won the circus visit with a rate of 97 percent for the week.

The school, with nearly 400 students, has about 97 percent attendance on a typical day, Principal Michele Sanchez said. But standing in the circus spotlight gave her another chance to convey a message about the importance of being at school.

“Your effort on a daily basis is going to lead to your success,” she told the kids before the show.

Chronic absenteeism is problem that confronts school districts nationwide.

In October 2015, the White House announced a federal initiative, Every Student, Every Day, designed to call attention to the problem and help communities with solutions.

Nationwide, more than 6 million students missed at least 15 days of school during the 2013-14 school year, according to a report that the Department of Education published last month. That is one out of every eight students.

Ohio defines chronic absenteeism as missing 18 days, or 10 percent of the school year. CMSD’s Get 2 School campaign helped reduce the District’s rate of chronic absenteeism by more than 6 percent.
CMSD’s campaign tried to ensure that students missed fewer than 10 days. District data shows that students who miss 10 or more days in a year score an average of 12 points lower on state reading tests and 15 points lower on state math tests. They are 9 percent less likely to meet Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee and, if in high school, 34 percent less likely to graduate.