We knew we had an attendance problem at Barnes Elementary. Occasionally, a teacher or diligent attendance clerk would raise a red flag, but as a staff, we didn’t think we could effectively address
what we saw as primarily a home-based problem. But in
March 2014, the aha moment came when, after a presentation by Safe and Civil Schools, our teachers roughly tabulated the number of students who were chronically absent
in their classrooms. We were blown away by how much
school our students were missing.
Barnes Elementary is a suburban school in Kelso, Washington, with a student body of 350 students; the student
population is 70. 1 percent white and 19. 8 percent Latino,
with a mix of other races. In the 2013–14 school year,
26 percent of Barnes students were chronically absent
(that is, absent 10 percent or more of the year); and only
46 percent had regular attendance (absent 5 percent or less
of the year).
After changing our approach to absenteeism, we were
able to decrease chronic absenteeism by 10 percent
(from 25. 7 percent to 15. 65 percent) while improving
regular attendance by 16 percent (from 45. 62 percent to
61. 79 percent) in just one year. Although we’ve made great
strides, we continue to work toward the goal of all students
having regular attendance. We’re energized by data showing
we can bring about positive change by following these five
A data-driven, multitiered approach helped this
district tackle chronic absenteeism.
Jessica Sprick, Jake Alabiso, and Kim Yore