• Tony Wold, Ed.D.

Prevention vs. Remediation Part 3: Call the Question

In my last post, I ended with a question; given the high cost of remediation and the comparatively low cost of a proactive prevention communications plan that improves attendance and reduces chronic absenteeism, “why is every LEA not spending $25 per student on a prevention communications plan?”

A simple answer that may be received is that the LEA can do it themselves. If that is true, then why are they not doing it? These same LEAs are opening the school year with vacancies in key staffing areas. The reality is that the dedicated staff that we do have need to prioritize their own efforts, and the process of creating grade span specific messaging, operationally delivering it on an ongoing basis, and staying current on all changes and needs of these students would require additional staff.

Another reason might be that $25 per student for a 10,000 student LEA is an annual $250,000 contract that is for an “outside consultant.” The argument would be that this money should be first used to hire additional staff or increase compensation to maintain those staff that already serve students. The flaw in this case, especially for ADM states, is that there is no additional $250,000 until we change attendance behaviors. The first year is funded with one-time funding, and the subsequent years come from ongoing operational savings. Additionally, in this arena, the $1.29 million (from last week’s case study) does not become available until you first invest the $250,000.

Ben Franklin coined his timeless phrase,“an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in 1736, and as is true of many of his quotes and advancements, it still has great relevance today. Franklin and others understood that better information means better ideas, which means better protection. Implementing a preventive campaign on the importance of attendance will help to reinforce your constituents’ learning and habits and improve their power of recall and motivation so that they can build and retain the habits they’ve learned in the long term.

Attendance is the gateway to improved student achievement and the first line of defense against lost learning. We need to act with a sense of urgency to restore our educational systems and this should start with a small investment of $25 per student into our ongoing budget. To quote several of my mentors as I was growing toward becoming a Chief Business Official “that amount per student is budget dust, compared to benefits that will be received for students.”

To every LEA in America, and in particular each CBO and Board of Education, I urge you all to check above the windowsills and the tops of each of your bookshelves until you have found enough of this “budget dust” to change the pathway for tens of thousands of students that you have pledged to serve. I would also like to note that the product pledge is a proactive prevention product that is used to ensure that dust can do no ongoing harm. So, our “pledge” is to use our “budget dust’ to do some ongoing good.