“Eighty percent of success is showing up,” is a common saying. To that end, a new program at Indiana Springs Middle School is tackling chronic absenteeism.
The program, which provides incentives for students to come to school, was created by Meggan Hoag, a teacher at Little Turtle Elementary School who is working on a master’s degree in administration.
Indian Springs principal Janet Boylen began implementing the program in mid-October and described it as a “tremendous success.”
The program targets 11 students who were identified as chronically absent. In the program, each morning, the students come to school, they put a sticker on a chart in Boylen’s office. If they come for a consecutive week, they can choose a reward.
Rewards include ice cream; picking music to listen to during class; a water fountain pass; eating lunch with a staff member; getting dismissed early to the bus, jumping to the front of the lunch line; sitting in the chair of their choice; a positive call or email to home; eating lunch with three friends in a staff member’s room; and eating popcorn at their lunch table.
“They really enjoy that because everyone at their table gets it, so it’s peer encouragement. They have buddies who say, ‘Hey, make sure you’re coming because we like the popcorn,’” Boylen said.
The rewards aren’t costly, but they’re still motivating for the students, she said. Some kids just need a little push to get them in the door. Like most people, middle school students don’t always feel great in the morning – it’s easy to hit the snooze button and sleep in. She wants students to learn that just because they feel tired in the morning, it doesn’t mean that they will feel that way all day.
It can also be hard to go back to school after several days off with the flu, she added.
“Our goal is to get them coming to school on their own because they start getting in the habit and really like it,” she said.
In addition, some of the kids come from home situations where mornings are rough, she said.
“So they come into school and they see a friendly face and it helps,” she said.
On a Wednesday morning, several of the students in the program trailed through her office to put a sticker on the chart. Making sure they feel welcome is part of the program, and Boylen greeted each of them warmly.
“Good morning! How are you doing today? It’s so good to see you,” she said.
The attendance program has been simple, but effective, she said. Out of 11 students, only one student’s attendance declined and one student’s attendance remained the same. All of the other participants have improved their attendance by 2-33 percent.
One student increased his attendance from 58 percent to 90 percent. Another student increased her attendance from 67 percent to 100 percent.
It has been exciting to measure the students’ progress, Boylen said. She hopes to expand the program in the future.
The program is helping form habits that will help them succeed in the future, she said.
“You want the kids to learn the skills that they need to be successful in life. Businesses are saying they want kids who come to work every day, so we want to enforce that,” she said.