GUEST BLOG: Career-Technical School Finds Innovative Way to Encourage Student Attendance — Jon Weidlich, Great Oaks Career Campuses
By: Guest Blogger
Editor's Note: September is Attendance Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, staff blogger Brittany Miracle shared tips for districts to improve attendance in their schools. This week, we hear from a career center that recognized the importance of student attendance and created a program to improve attendance.
Twenty-one days — the amount of time research shows a person needs to establish a new habit. That’s the foundation of a strategy to improve student attendance at Scarlet Oaks Career Campus in Cincinnati.
Scarlet Oaks launched Play 21 in 2017 to help students be more accountable for attending school consistently. The concept is simple; students sign a chart in their first and second period classes and when they’ve reached 21 consecutive days of attendance, they can enter a drawing for prizes. Posters around campus serve as reminders of the program.
At the end of the quarter, prizes are awarded to 21 students whose names are drawn. The prizes are relatively small: $10 gift cards, special parking privileges or early release to lunch, for instance. Recognition, though, is a real motivator. The school posts the winners’ names on video monitors throughout the campus.
Through Play 21:
- Students can see their progress each day and know when they’re reaching the 21-day goal;
- Students who falter—who miss a day during that period—can start over and still succeed during any given academic quarter;
- Students who win prizes get public recognition for their success;
- Students develop new habits.
“We’re trying to change the culture from punitive to positive,” said English instructor Stephen Tracy. That is, instead of focusing on punishing those who miss school, the Scarlet Oaks staff celebrates those who attend regularly.
The Scarlet Oaks Attendance Committee, comprised of a group of instructors (both academic and career technical), administrators, a counselor, a custodian and a cybrarian (librarian), wanted to eliminate the mindset that schools take for granted that students will attend. “Some of our students have barriers they have to overcome just to get to school in the morning,” said Roger Osborne, an exercise science instructor.
Osborne said Play 21 helps to provide an incentive for students to give extra effort. One student, for instance, missed the school bus but paid for an Uber ride to get to school on time.
And though Play 21 resulted in 10 students having perfect attendance in 2017-2018, that’s not necessarily the only goal. “We’re recognizing good, improved AND perfect attendance to school,” said Assistant Dean Ramona Beck.
Play 21 takes a holistic approach to attendance, combining student responsibility, teacher encouragement and administrative support. “The sign-in sheet is a daily check for both the teacher and student,” Beck said.
The hope is that, in just 21 days, students are developing good habits for a lifetime.
“They’ll be going to work when they leave us,” said Osborne. “We’ve got to get them ready. This aligns with our mission of preparing students for real life.”
Jon Weidlich is director of Community Relations at Great Oaks Career Campuses in Southwest Ohio. He has worked with and written about students of all ages, as well as schools, parents and communities for more than 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.