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  • Erica Peterson

This sh*t is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

This month many schools opened their doors to welcome in students for the 2021-22 school year and if I had to describe what has ensued, the word BANANAS comes to mind. Headline after headline speaks to: false starts with students being sent home to isolate for two weeks just days after starting school; parents and school staff coming to blows over masking up or not masking up; families knowingly sending COVID+ kids to campus—all of this sh*t is BANANAS.

After 18 months of disrupted learning, 2021-22 is on track to sustained disruption. It’s in all of this I return to our core concepts at the outset of the pandemic. In the year ahead, schools need to:

  1. Take attendance daily. I would go further to say, all schools in a district need to use the same attendance code definitions across all programs. Attendance taking should go back to basics—you either laid eyes on/spoke to a kid today, or you didn’t. That’s it. Monitor students daily whether they are attending on campus or through independent study programs.

  2. Intervene and reach out—MTSS intervention models work. Focus on the foundation: Universal and Tier 1 supports to impact the greatest number of kids. Send “no contact” communications to families that did not show up on the first day of not showing up. If school hasn’t started yet, reach out to families of chronically absent students from last year to re-engage proactively.

  3. Track data like a pro. Get the right data points, set timely thresholds, use custom tags and unique identifiers to enable you to run analysis on those specific identifiers to determine if there are differentiated attendance patterns and trends. Most districts already tag students using subgroup identifiers. Same concept but you define the group, e.g. tagging kids that walk versus ride a bus to school, or live in certain areas of town.

I don’t know when the disruption to learning will end for all students but what I do know is that kids who attend school have better outcomes. Keeping kids in school every day requires processes that track daily attendance, implement interventions in both on- and off-campus settings, allow for tags to aggregate and disaggregate data, and enlist parents as partners with positive, supportive communication that create a culture of showing up.

By the way, I really don’t like BANANAS.

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