The Polk County School District’s Strategic Plan identifies reducing student absenteeism as key to improving student achievement. Studies have shown that missing ten percent, roughly 18 days per school year, negatively affects a student’s academic performance.
During the 2017-2018 school year the Polk Vision Attendance Team together with Polk County Public Schools adopted a multi-pronged tactical plan for five pilot schools that included an integrated message campaign - Strive For Less Than 5 TM Days Absent. Inspired by the success achieved by the Grand Rapids, Michigan School District (Believe 2 Become, 2016), the plan hinges upon school staff, parents, and community leaders collaborating to address the critical issue of school attendance.
2018-2019 marked the second year of the pilot program. The Attendance Team continued to work with the schools to implement strategies that encourage attendance early in the students’ academic lives. The hope is for the commitment to become a positive habit into middle and high school and even as a future contributor to the workforce. Of the original five pilot schools, four continued through the second year. With the exit of CODE Academy from the program, Crystal Lake Elementary Community Partnership School joined the pilot.
The Attendance Team’s Tactical Plan continued to pursue strategies that leverage the Strive For Less Than 5 TM Days Absent messaging campaign.
In September 2018, during Attendance Awareness Month, a refreshed Strive for Less than 5 ™ video featuring Superintendent Byrd and Sheriff Grady Judd was released along with expanded campaign materials including buttons, wall murals, posters and outdoor signs. Throughout the month, Team members and volunteers met students as they arrived at participating schools with enthusiastic words of welcome, high fives, and fist bumps. These personal greetings were so well received that the practice continued over the course of the school year with Team members and community volunteers periodically greeting arriving students.
With the help of community partners the Team plans to expand Attendance awareness activities to include student recognition and incentives. Each of the five pilot schools will continue to use messaging materials to encourage students to show up every day, on time and ready to learn.
Our school system deserves the support of advocates who want the best for all students. I believe in Polk Vision’s commitment to building a team of partners who are dedicated to reducing absenteeism. School officials, teachers, parents, and community leaders are working together at our five pilot schools to implement strategies that encourage students to Strive for Less Than FiveTM Days Absent. Occasionally, we greet the students as they arrive at school. Every moment served on this committee is worth it when I see eager children arrive at school ready to learn. -Chandra Frederick, Executive Director, Polk TPO, & Assistant County Manager, Polk County BoCC
Permission to use Challenge 5™, Strive for Less Than Five™ Days Absent Campaign granted on behalf of Believe 2 Become (B2B), an initiative of the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation.
CHALLENGE 5TM PILOT SCHOOLS
• Crystal Lake Elementary
• 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.