Tackling Truancy

Downtown High School used an Innovation Award in 2015-16 to design solutions to the challenge of student truancy.  Below is a description of the challenge, process, and solution they designed.

The Challenge

The critical challenge that Downtown High School grapples with as a continuation school is truancy. Most students who enroll at our school were referred for transfer due to truancy. One of our strategies has been to establish “Minimum Expectations” of 80% attendance or better to challenge our students to earn as many credits as possible. Currently, approximately 42% of our students are meeting this 80% minimum expectation. On average, 17-20 students are tardy each day.

The Process

Transportation Support – develop a relationship with a ride-sharing company to provide students with rides to school in the morning to decrease tardiness and absences.

Student Ambassador Program – paid student ambassadors will carry a caseload of students to encourage their peers to increase attendance and academic performance.

Mid-Quarter Conferences – teachers will meet with students in the middle of the quarter to address academic goals and graduation plan so that students have more feedback on their progress.

Orientation Week – students will participate in an all-school orientation in order to encourage community, learn about school processes and expectations and become acclimated to the school.

The Solution

This Spring we’ve piloted both the student led mid-quarter conference and Attendance Ambassadors programs. Mid-quarter conferences were held for all students in 1 of 5 projects. Typically, these conferences occur with parents present , but we believe student voice and choice in their own lives needs to be strengthened, so students met with teachers sans parents.

The Attendance Ambassadors pilot program is fully student led with check-ins by the AP. Our desired condition is that students run the program with minimal adult/staff input. So far with the support of our Americorp Worker/DHS Alum staff has managed to remain on the balcony in terms of managing the program from day-to-day. We will survey participants during our 4th quarter conferences.

The Impact

The school has piloted Mid-Quarter Conferences for a small group of students. We will survey students at their  4th quarter conferences to evaluate and get feedback on their attendance success or unsuccess,
A small, student-led group of 3 students is currently being trained on peer mentoring skills in preparation to begin their work as Attendance Ambassadors.
Mid-Quarter Conferences – teachers will meet with students in the middle of the quarter to address academic goals and graduation plan so that students have more feedback on their progress.
Orientation Week – students will participate in an all-school orientation in order to encourage community, learn about school processes and expectations and become acclimated to the school.
The work underway in the 2015-16 school year has resulted in an on-going reflective discussion on the state of grading. The faculty engaged in difficult conversations that challenge long-held beliefs and practices. Teachers are discussing assessment and grading in-depth on a regular basis with grade-level and department level colleagues, as well as presenting their likes, questions, and concerns about adopting new practices to the faculty as a whole. Teachers are “dabbling” in adoption of various recommended best practices including dropping 0s from their gradebooks to get away from inaccurate reflections of student achievement and allowing students to review and retake assessments to show increase in skills.

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