The Polk County School District’s Strategic Plan identifies reducing student absenteeism as key to improving student achievement. The Attendance Team is committed to finding a systemic solution to this widespread problem facing students of all ages and grades. Starting as early as pre-school and kindergarten, chronic absence can leave third graders unable to read proficiently, sixth graders struggling with coursework and high school students off track for graduation.
Inspired by the success achieved by the Grand Rapids, Michigan School District (Believe 2 Become, 2016), the Polk Vision Attendance Team together with Polk County Public Schools adopted a multi-pronged tactical plan that entered its first-year pilot phase in Fall 2017. Five area elementary schools began integrating elements of an actionable messaging campaign, Strive For Less Than 5™ Days Absent, intended to activate parents as partners and engage the local community as stakeholders
The Challenge 5™ pilot started out strong and was promoted widely through a video message from Supt. Jacqueline Bryd and Sheriff Grady Judd. Once this aired, the positive messaging campaign gained momentum among teachers and students.
Select Team members visited the pilot schools regularly to gauge what was working and what needed improvement. The schools identified strengths and asked for reinforcements in the way of additional literature, community support, and incentives for attendance awards.
As we enter year two of the pilot, the Strive for Less Than 5™ video will continue to anchor the campaign. The outreach will be expanded to include broader community awareness and volunteer recruitment to support attendance at the schools. Each of the five schools will be provided with a variety of campaign materials including a wall mural, posters, outdoor signage and a standardized system to award and incentivize students.
CHALLENGE 5TM PILOT SCHOOLS
• CODE Combee Academy
• Eagle Lake Elementary
• Garner Elementary
• Griffin Elementary
• Palmetto Elementary
Connie Loutzenhiser, Principal at Eagle Lake Elementary, celebrates her attendance heroes by regularly posting progress reports on her Challenge 5™ Campaign bulletin board.
Support at the District and School leadership level is at the core of any pilot program. Polk County School Board Members officially launched the Challenge 5™ pilot program on November 14, 2017.