Student committee tackles attendance, vaccination hesitancy
CMSD NEWS BUREAU
CEO Eric Gordon met with a large group of trusted advisors last week, getting together with the Student Advisory Committee for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions at Windows on the River, only 132 high school students from the committee attended, instead of the usual 420. But the power of their voice was just as strong.
CEO Gordon asked the students to answer several questions, including why individual students' attendance has dropped since students returned to the buildings for in-person learning five days a week.
“We are seeing a new attendance pattern, a new set of absences that does not match what we knew to be true before the pandemic,” said Gordon. “Student behavior has changed, but we don’t know why it has changed.”
CMSD research has shown that scores on state reading tests drop by 12 points and that math scores are 15 points lower for students who miss more than 10 days of school in a year.
“And, seniors, are you ready for this one? You have a 34 percent lower chance of graduating if you miss more than 10 days,” said Jason Smith, a CMSD sociologist and data analyst manager.
To stay on track, a student should miss no more than two days in the first grading period, which ends Oct. 22. Overall attendance is not down significantly from pre-pandemic statistics, but the the number of students who have missed more than two days since the start of the year is up.
Students worked in small groups to answer why they think attendance is different this year. They also took part in a poll and said the top three reasons students are skipping school are pandemic stress, both mental and physical (21 percent), not feeling supported as a student (18 percent) and fear of getting COVID (16 percent).
Students also discussed why those who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are not getting it.
According to the Ohio Department of Health website, only 21 percent of individuals up to the age of 19 have been vaccinated in Cuyahoga County.
Students believe fear, lack of information and side effects are the top three reasons people are not getting the shot.
Gordon and his staff will use the information gathered during the SAC meeting to come up with a strategy for improving both attendance and COVID vaccine rate.
The Student Advisory Committee was created as part of the 2012 state law that paved the way for The Cleveland Plan. The customized blueprint for education reform requires each school in the district to appoint a delegation and give students a voice in their education.