Seventy-five percent of SKPS schools increased their attendance rates from the previous year
In Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS), 49 of the district’s 65 schools grew their attendance rates since the 2017-18 school year, and more than 400 additional students are considered to be regular attenders.
At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, SKPS launched “Every Day 24J” to raise awareness with students and families, schools, community organizations and local officials regarding chronic absenteeism. Since the start of the campaign, schools and community organizations have been collaborating to identify barriers to attendance for students across the district. The work has centered around connecting students and families to community resources, providing incentives for positive attendance trends and most importantly, building relationships with each and every student.
“We know that students succeed when they know that there is someone who believes in them,” said Superintendent Christy Perry. “Regular attendance is a key indicator of student success and habits start with our very youngest learners in pre-kindergarten. Building connections with students from day one and encouraging them to be there every day is the first step toward helping our students reach the graduation stage.”
Chronic absenteeism is defined by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) as missing 10 percent or more of the school year. In SKPS that equates to as little as two days a month—18 days a year.
Across the district schools are working to improve their attendance rates through identifying resources for their students, community engagement and more. At Highland Elementary School, students improved their attendance rate since the 2017-18 school year by nearly nine percentage points.
“We worked to find the root cause of our attendance challenges,” said Principal Christi Cheever. “As we continued to make personal calls each day, we identified barriers for our students such as transportation and lack of housing or clothes that made it difficult for our students to be at school. We worked with the district and our community partners to wraparound and support our students’ needs, and ultimately help boost attendance.”
Through a grant with Kaiser Permanente, the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality is also working to develop attendance supports for families in the North Salem High feeder system. At North, students improved their attendance rate this year by 6.3 percentage points.
“The sense of urgency regarding attendance has never been stronger,” said Assistant Principal Carlos Ruiz. “Our strengths are making relationships, which are foundational in education. It doesn’t matter what your title is; we all have the capacity and power to connect with kids.”
During the summer, the district will continue to collaborate with community organizations to develop additional supports and resources for families, students and educators to continue to improve attendance.
“The improvements to our attendance rates across the district are so encouraging,” said Perry. “However, we still have a lot of work to do, and this is work that we will continue to do until we help each and every student be there every day in District 24J.”