Reward programs encourage attendance

Published 1:30 am Thursday, February 8, 2018

Like students, schools get attendance marks on report cards


School attendance matters.

Not just because students must be present to learn, but also because it’s a factor in how schools and school systems are graded on their own report cards.

As a matter of fact, in the first grade-letter report cards released by the state Department of Education last week, 10 percent of a school’s overall score was based on attendance. Academic achievement counted 40 percent, and academic growth (individual improvement in math and reading from one year to the next) counted 50 percent.

The local schools that had the best attendance record said they have programs in place to encourage to keep kids in school.

Opp Elementary School implemented the Bobcat Paw Strong Initiative this past year, principal Shawn Short said. The program helped OES record the lowest percentage of chronic absenteeism in the county. The state defines anyone with 15 or more absences in a given school year as “chronically absent.” At OES, only 9.6 percent of the students were absent that often.

“We reward the classes with a Bobcat paw when they get perfect attendance,” Short explained. “It gives the kid a little motivation to come to school so they can get that paw.”

OES also had the highest overall score of all local schools on the State Report Card. The school scored 87, almost 10 points higher than the state average of 79.

“We are just so proud of the hard work our teachers and students have been putting in,” Short said. “It is just one test though, so we still have our kinks that we have to work out.

“I believe it is important for the kids to actually show up to school so they can be educated,” Short said. “That is why I drill attendance so much.”

Short said that he meets with parents, calls them if the student is absent and will even offer to pick students up if a parent is unable to get a student to school.

“One of the main things that we do is make sure the parents are educated,” Short said. “If they know how important it is for these kids to show up to school then it makes it easier on us.”

At 9.69 percent, Andalusia Junior High School’s absenteeism rate was only slightly higher than OES’s.

Strict attendance and the Bulldog Bucks reward program helped, assistant principal Victoria Anderson said.

“We reward students every nine weeks with perfect attendance and no tardiness with what we call ‘Bulldog Bucks’,” Anderson said. “With these bucks, students can use it for longer break periods, sitting with a friend at lunch and having free break snacks.”

Anderson said that attendance is definitely a big part of success in school.

“Of course we wished we did better on the State Report Card, but we are very proud of our teachers and our students,” Anderson said.

Local educators said that originally, state officials said they planned to factor attendance based on pure percentage of attendance numbers, but later changed the measure.