To do well in school children must be in attendance. Children’s Health Fund’s Healthy and Ready to Learn program, used innovation and creativity to help eliminate absences.
On the morning of the second day of March, the hallways at PS 36 were humming with excitement. In fact, more children aged 3-12 eagerly made their way to class, than a year prior. This was because of a new incentive to be in school and on time this winter month, a challenge created and implemented by Ginelle Wynter, the Senior Site Manager of Children’s Health Fund’s Healthy and Ready to Learn Program at PS 36 in Harlem.
Too many students are “chronically absent,” which is identified as missing 19 or more days (one month) of school per year, or two days per month. In fact, chronic absenteeism is a major obstacle that children face. Every day a child is not in school, he or she becomes more at risk of falling behind academically, receiving lower test scores, and repeating a grade. March is identified by Ms. Wynter as an especially difficult month for attendance. “Historically, March is a low attendance month because there are no days off. It doesn’t help that the weather is extremely unpredictable.”
As a result, Ms. Wynter came up with a never before tried challenge, titled “March Madness,” aimed to improve attendance by promoting a friendly competition between classes using the hype of the ever-popular, culturally relevant college basketball tournament. The idea was to have groups of students work together to hold each other accountable for being present and in their seats each morning. To help with the counting, a weekly attendance data report was taken and tallied. Students could be heard outside of their classrooms chanting “March Madness, March Madness,” after the weekly rankings were shared during the morning announcements. This rallying around high attendance rates made the school environment extremely cheerful!
“Attendance is a huge factor in academic success,” says Ms. Wynter. “When kids are present and paying attention in class their futures look brighter.”
Each grade was able to participate and the class that had the highest attendance percentage per grade won a pizza party. The class that had the highest attendance percentage in the whole school won a trophy. These treats, and the special shout outs the classes received during the morning announcements, helped to increase morale during the cold month.
This year’s March attendance rate reached 91.06%, the highest number it’s been in at least five years. In March of 2018, the attendance rate was 88.25%. A record number of students, 125, had perfect attendance throughout the whole month. That is a 108% increase from the 60 students with perfect attendance the year prior.
These numbers show that with a little innovation and a lot of inspiration, commitment to change can happen because with a record number of children being present in the classroom comes a record number of children ready to learn.