Working Together to Improve Attendance

Posted on September 19, 2019 in CEO Updates

Dear Friends –

School has begun across our community and the excitement and energy of the new academic year is in the air. As an educator and principal in this community for the past 18 years, I know the hard work that our teachers, school staff, administrators, families, direct service providers and community partners put into ensuring our students start school off on the right track. I also know that all of us play a key role in the work happening across the community to improve attendance.

This spring, we released Chapter 04 and while it demonstrated the collective progress we have made together, it also illuminated those areas where we fell further behind, the most startling of which is attendance. Regular attendance rates in our community hit a peak during the 2014-15 school year. Since then, we’ve seen a steady decline: in 2017-18, more than 30% of Multnomah County freshmen were chronically absent.

When a kid misses more than 10% of school (roughly 17 days), the odds of academic success are dramatically decreased. We know that many of the reasons our community’s students are chronically absent have root causes out of their control—barriers like housing and food insecurity, health and mental health challenges in the home, and unstable transportation. As a principal, I saw the depth of these hardships and the impact on our kids first-hand. I also saw the power of weaving schools and community together in new ways to improve attendance and in turn, engagement in school. Improvement happens when we all work together to support our students and families.

  • Kaiser Permanente, in partnership with Attendance Works and Education Northwest, launched a regional attendance effort, granting $1 million in funding to seven organizations to focus on a data-centered, collective impact approach to reduce barriers to regular school attendance. As a result, Latino Network is working intentionally with two schools in the Parkrose School District to integrate school-based attendance efforts with the services and supports Latino Network offers to parents and families.
  • Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers is focused on improving attendance at three local high schools–Madison, Parkrose, and Roosevelt–through his RESPECT initiative. As a result of their focused partnerships, one partner high school saw a 400% reduction in tardies in the same month over the prior year, the first season the program was implemented.
  • Wells Fargo understands the importance of attending school. That’s why they have invested in finding and spreading those core practices that lead to improved attendance through the All Hands Raised Partnership—which included schools, culturally-specific-and-responsive providers and county and state partners. “I have had the opportunity to visit schools across Multnomah County and have seen first-hand the significant barriers our children face to attending school. I have also seen the innovative and inspiring practices that schools and nonprofits are implementing to support kids and families. Wells Fargo is proud to support this community-wide effort to ensure our kids are attending and engaged in school,” said Tracy Curtis, Oregon Regional President, Wells Fargo.
  • Oregon’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is committed to family and student success. To foster stronger relationships between families, and to support their well-being, seven family coaches are now located in the schools. These coaches will partner with schools to develop strategies that assist families in supporting school attendance and completion.

For a more complete picture of our community’s K-12 attendance rates, visit our interactive data dashboard. Here you can explore attendance patterns in key grade levels across the county, as well as go deeper on how kids are attending in each of our partner school districts and by population group.

By working together to support student attendance, we will make a difference. We have a history of collaboration resulting in improved attendance–let’s not lose focus on working together to ensure our students are in school and learning.

Wishing you all the best as this school year kicks off.

Lavert Robertson
All Hands Raised