Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If Pancakes Increase Attendance, Call Me Aunt Jemima

Our district is on a big push to increase attendance, and with startling drop-out and graduation rates, rightly so! Attendance has implications in so many areas of school that targeting poor attending students in the lower grades is critical. If they don't have a strong school connection by the time high school comes around, it can be much more difficult to get students to come to school.

In our building, we have two initiatives going on right now to promote attendance, and they're really making a different. What's the game changer? Food. Remember how I suggested having snacks or a meal on family nights at school, to encourage families to attend? It works for kiddos too!

Our first, and most successful, endeavor thus far has been "Breakfast Club." We targeted first grade students who were "chronic" non-attendees, meaning that they have missed up to 19% of the days of school thus far, leaving us with about 15 students. For the month of February, they were invited to attend Breakfast Club on Monday mornings if they came to school, where they would get special breakfast treats (like uber large cinnamon buns, nom nom) in a special room with some of our Student Support staff. On the other days of the week, a mentor checks in with them in the morning to congratulate them on coming to school and gives them a sticker. If they came to school for the entire week, they got a regular sized candy bar on Friday. During February, we saw attendance at Breakfast Club climb from 4 students (who remarked the whole thing was "weird" as they sat and stared at each other eating muffins), to 8, then 11 for the last two Mondays.

In March, we are continuing the program, but have moved Breakfast Club to Tuesdays. Now, students must attend Monday and Tuesday to be invited to their special breakfast. As the school year closes up, the day of Breakfast Club will be moved one day later every month, ending in June with it being held on Fridays. Students will be expected to attend every day prior to Breakfast Club to be allowed to attend. So far, so good! The kiddos look forward to Breakfast Club each week, and on their way up to class, have stopped adults and even the principal to tell them about their special treats.

Our other, shiny and new, program is another breakfast party (who doesn't love breakfast food, I always say). In February, we tracked the homerooms to see who had the best attendance for the whole month. This was some serious business, as it involved algorithms and advanced math beyond my comprehending. We had to make sure that no class was being penalized for having 25 students vs. 6, and that the one kid who's come to school for 4 days this whole year didn't bring his whole class down. In the end, the person calculating did some fancy average of the days possible, days missed, and number of students in the class. One of our third grade classes came out on top and won a stellar pancake breakfast.

Mmm... green.
Right before St. Patrick's Day, they had their pancakes, and we went all out. We decorated the cafeteria with balloons and table cloths, set out place settings, got scented special pencils for each student, griddled up some flapjacks, and provided a myriad of tasty toppings. Not only did we have regular pancakes, but there were also chocolate chip and GREEN pancakes. If colored pancakes don't get a kid to come to school, something is wrong. Add in the fact that kiddos could top their pancakes with bananas, chocolate chips, green sprinkles, whipped cream, syrup, and chocolate sauce, you've got a recipe for perfect attendance (and diabetes).

We had a blast, and the kids did too. Their faces lit up when they came down to the cafeteria in the morning and they were giddy the entire breakfast. I'm sure that they went back upstairs and told evvvverybody how great the treat was, which will hopefully get some more kiddos enticed to come to school. I've got a whole box of food coloring waiting for them.

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1 comment:

  1. I love the title of this! Very clever.


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