Public Housing Agencies addressing chronic absenteesim
- HOPE SF
In 2012, leaders of HOPE SF examined data across schools, city agencies and the housing authority in San Francisco. The data match revealed that 53 percent of students living in the four public housing complexes know as “HOPE SF” were chronically absent. Improving student attendance quickly became a top priority for the initiative’s education strategy. HOPE SF began by sharing these data with its partners, both residents and agency representatives, and together they developed a set of strategies that has brought the community closer to the schools. The chronic absence rate in the complexes dropped 14 percentage points — from 53 percent in 2010–11 to 39 percent in 2015 — indicating the initiative’s success. HOPE SF is a cross-sector initiative dedicated to improving four of San Francisco’s most distressed public housing complexes without large-scale displacement of current residents.
- Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA)
HACLA launched a school attendance challenge at the Rancho San Pedro housing development this year for students who are in grades K–5. HACLA is working closely with Rancho San Pedro as well as the local elementary school, which is where many of housing site’s school-age children are enrolled and has a high number of absences. Timed to coincide with Attendance Awareness Month and to raise awareness about the importance of and encourage attendance, families were given a calendar to track absences. Additionally, after the spring and fall semesters, students will be invited to a party and awards celebration to honor those who have reduced their absences since last year, have fewer than three absences or have perfect attendance. HACLA also has begun conversations with the LAUSD Pupil Services Office to assess data and ways to promote attendance. As a pilot, the housing site seemed to be a good starting point due to need and collaboration.
- Housing Authority of the County of Marin (Marin Housing)
Marin Housing has a School Attendance Policy to help guide residents through its self-sufficiency, school attendance and community-based programs to identify solutions for students to reduce absenteeism and prevent truant behavior. The purpose of the School Attendance Policy is to support local public school programs that are authorized to monitor and improve attendance of school-age children enrolled in kindergarten and grades 1 through 8. Marin Housing provides attendance messaging on a regular basis, but includes a special focus during back-to-school activities. Local public school programs and collaboration might include, but are not limited to, alternative education programs, behavioral programs, school-based mentoring or other programs tailored to the school community. Marin Housing has a walking school bus to make sure the kids get to school safely and on time that is supported in part by parent volunteers and the county probation department. Marin Housing held a back-to-school rally where it partnered with different agencies, including after-school programs like the Boys & Girls Club, and featured guest speakers who talked about attendance.
- Oakland Housing Authority (OHA)
OHA programs and services are designed to increase school attendance, parent or caregiver engagement, academic achievement and life skills development for youth who reside in the agency’s residential communities. OHA’s Education Initiative leverages key partnerships with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the City of Oakland Mayor’s Office, community-based organizations and other service providers with a focus on education. In an effort to address the academic achievement barriers and other critical needs, OHA entered into a partnership with OUSD, agreeing to collaborate and develop effective strategies to increase student attendance. Through the joint use of information systems, OHA and OUSD discovered an overlap of 5,700 students. With this information, both OHA and OUSD developed goals to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes of youth served by both institutions through two primary objectives: (1) increased attendance of OHA youth; and (2) increased parent engagement with both their children’s education and their schools. This collaborative citywide approach to track and address chronic absence has reduced chronic absence rates from 16 percent in 2005–06 to 11.9 percent in 2013–14
- Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA)
SHA has a school board interagency agreement (MOU) with the School Board of Sarasota County to promote the mutual goals of getting SHA children prepared for school. This provides SHA access to student data and includes monitoring attendance records, monitoring discipline issues, heading off and preventing early dropouts, as well as encouraging and celebrating success and graduation. Because truancy can become a lease violation, SHA tries to intercede early with messaging to parents about the importance of being in school every day. SHA staff, along with school personnel, meet with families with low attendance to educate them and identify barriers to on-time arrival and consistent attendance. SHA receives attendance reports, staff meet with principals, teachers, social workers, parents and students to provide a support system to assure student success. SHA staff began meeting with students last year and found that the kids they met with at school saw improved attendance, although a few other kids emerged as being chronically absent toward the end of the year. Staff will start meeting with school officials to identify kids who are chronically absent and track attendance.
- Housing Authority of the City of Pocatello (HACP)
The HACP entered into an MOU with United Way and the Pocatello School District to roll out an aggressive program this past August to focus its work on pre-K and kindergarten with attention to school readiness, learning to read and parent engagement. The MOU includes a data-sharing agreement with the school district, and agency staff have identified the housing authority children enrolled in the elementary school that is implementing a two-year pilot program to see how this collaborative effort impacts student outcomes. After the pilot, the agency will look at opportunities to move out to other schools. HACP will sponsor monthly attendance awards in the form of pizza for the kids or coffee cards for the parents of the children in kindergarten. Because kindergarten isn’t mandatory in Idaho, HACP plans to reward the parents to encourage attendance. On the first day of school this year, members of the community made it a fun day for the students with representatives from the housing authority, fire department, the mayor and the local baseball team welcoming the kids with a sidewalk of high fives, reading first-day-of-school books in class and showing the kids that grown-ups from all over the community support them.
- Springfield Housing Authority
SHA is part of the local Live Well Springfield coalition working to increase healthy eating and physical activity in the community. Other coalition members include the Springfield Public Schools, the Talk/Read/Succeed program, Baystate Health Safe Kids program, Brightwood Health Center, the state Department of Public Health, Mass in Motion team, Partners for a Healthier Community and the YMCA of Greater Springfield. The Walking School Bus is one of several strategies that Springfield has used to reduce chronic absence, and Springfield Public Schools’ district-wide attendance initiative has cut the proportion of chronically absent kindergartners significantly. The district has a structured protocol for reaching parents, each principal has an attendance performance goal and the city’s weakest schools are working with community agencies to address chronic absence. The Walking School Bus has appeal beyond its impact on chronic absenteeism — it enhances health and child safety as well. Early results show that students participating have a better attendance rate (approximately 2 percentage points) than their peers. One student who was tardy or absent 22 days in the 2010–11 school year has not been late or absent once since joining the program.
- The Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri (HAKC)
HAKC is partnering with Turn the Page KC, the GLR Campaign community effort in that city, as well as United Way, Parents as Teachers and the Literacy Lab. These partners are working to meet the needs of the children and families in the Choteau Courts housing development. In looking to address chronic absence for the 89 children ages 0–5 residing there, the agency has focused in part on family mobility, which can impact learning. Choteau Courts is looking at reducing transfers so that family moves are done only when planned and supported, providing financial incentives to promote educational stability and increasing access to academic enrichment programs such as tutoring. Turn the Page KC provides trained tutors to offer one-on-one assistance and volunteers to provide additional reading time — efforts with an emphasis on mitigating the impact of family mobility on chronic absenteeism.
- San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA)
REACH Awards stands for “Rewarding Educational Achievement, Cultivating Hope.” They are given to students who are SAHA public housing residents or part of the Section 8 Program and have demonstrated perfect attendance for either the fall or spring semester(s) for the school year and have achieved Honor Roll for the fall or spring semester(s) for the school year. Resident students are now eligible to receive up to $100 annually, based on their academic achievements. SAHA serves over 20,000 families, with more than 9,000 children age 4–18.
- King County Housing Authority (KCHA)
The focus on attendance is an agency-wide priority for KCHA. In the White Center community, an educational place-based initiative focuses on the high rates of chronic absenteeism in early school grades, especially during preschool and kindergarten. Recognizing that this challenge cannot be addressed by efforts in the classroom alone, the initiative’s strategies reflect a community-level focus. Strategies include raising awareness of the importance of attendance, aligning attendance policies and procedures across services, identifying and collaborating to reduce barriers for families, and providing attendance planning support for at-risk students.
- Seattle Housing Authority (SHA)
SHA is actively engaged in encouraging and supporting school attendance among its families. For the first time, the agency’s executive director sent a letter to over 3,000 families to inform them about the changes that were occurring in the schools this year, including a change in bell times. The change in bell times is huge for the district and SHA worked to get the word out broadly, knowing how important it is for students to be in school and worrying that the changes in school start times might lead to attendance issues in those early days. SHA worked with Seattle Public Schools to make sure families were aware of the many changes and created a flyer with information that the agency knew its families would be interested in receiving. Bell time revisions were listed on the back of the flyer to help parents and guardians adjust their schedules. Seattle Public Schools recognize the challenges families face as they restructure their schedules, including potential impacts on before- and after-school child care, after-school activities and nutrition programs.
- Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee
HACM staff believe that housing authorities should provide more than just a place to live so they work to provide innovative programs to keep kids in school. In 2004, HACM created the Education Initiative to improve school attendance, to link children and families to available resources such as tutoring or after-school programs, and to encourage stronger parental involvement in each child’s education. The award-winning Education Initiative helps to ensure that youth in the Highland Homes and Scattered Sites developments attend school, strive for academic achievement and graduate from high school. The agency’s education specialists work with families to make sure their kids are in school every day and help reduce barriers to their success in school. An individual educational achievement plan is developed for each child to ensure the program is tailored to his or her particular needs.