Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective, but often overlooked strategy for ensuring students are on-track to learn and to succeed.
“Missing just two days of school every month can cause a child to fall behind,” said Meridian Elementary School Teacher, Shannon Ibbotson.
Earlier this year, the Meridian Elementary School implemented a new program to help keep students excited about school while promoting positive attendance.
Aptly named, ‘Must be Present to Win’, sends the message that going to school every day matters for the success in school and life.
“Students are rewarded every day they come to school with 100 ‘Tiger Bucks’,” said Ibbotson, “the students save up their bucks for the opportunity to shop in the school store at the end of the month.”
The school store includes sports items, coloring books, school themed merchandise, various school supplies, and other fun games and toys.
“The children love saving up their bucks for an item they want in the store,” said Ibbotson, “some stop in each day to see what is new.”
The idea came from school secretary Anne Sykes, said Ibbotson.
The students with perfect attendance for the month will have a movie day with the School Principal Javier Lopez.
“Students are only allowed to miss one day of school to qualify for the movie day,” said Ibbotson, ”They also can not leave before 2PM in order to keep their tiger bucks.”
Students must spend all their ‘Tiger Bucks’ by the end of the month as the remaining balance is deposited back to the school, and everyone starts fresh the next month, Ibbotson commented.
“We are not promoting that our students come to school sick,” said Ibbotson, “however, the program has reduced the number of children leaving early due to false illness.”
With the first few months underway, Meridian Elementary has had a positive attendance with 68 out of 74 students receiving almost perfect attendance.
“Our goal is to keep our attendance at 98%, and the program is working,” said Ibbotson
Ibbotson said that the school is looking for individuals and businesses who are interested in donating items for the school store to help keep the students motivated. Some suggestions include movie tickets, gift certificates, sports items, various school supplies, and other small toys or items that children would like.
“We are hoping to obtain a few significant items to be raffled off for each trimester,” said Ibbotson.
Chronic absence is a problem not only at Meridian Elementary School, but a nationwide problem. According to the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, nine out of ten students who missed five or more days in the first month went on to be chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism in kindergarten and even pre- kindergarten can predict lower test scores, poor attendance and retention in later grades, especially if the problem persists for more than a year.
“’Must be present to win’ seems to be working,” said Ibbotson, “Students are excited about coming to school and eager to learn.”