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The Most Important Education Reform: Reducing Absenteeism

By Tips and Resources
Achievement and graduation rates are not going to improve if students are not showing up for school. It’s an issue that’s finally getting a lot of attention.

Educational initiatives ranging from increasingly rigorous teacher evaluations to national Common Core standards to STEM and early-childhood literacy programs are gaining rapid momentum. All of these approaches, and more, can have a hand in holistically reforming and improving our schools. But the reality is that if students do not first show up on time to school every day, these innovative programs and reforms will be lost on them.

While research shows that attendance is one of three key predictors of high-school graduation as early as sixth grade, 7.5 million students nationwide miss an entire month of school annually. In New York City, the nation’s largest school district, 20 percent of students miss a month each year. Until as recently as five years ago, attendance was not even accurately recorded in cities as large as Washington, D.C.

Many factors contribute to these high rates of absenteeism, but one of the greatest is family engagement. Regardless of socioeconomic status, it is the most important factor in children’s academic success. Yet parents and families, particularly in underserved communities in which up to 50 percent of children are chronically absent from school, are often uniformed of their children’s attendance and academic standing until it is too late. A Gates Foundation studyreported that 71 percent of recent dropouts thought that increased communication with their families would the best way to have kept them in school. Of those dropouts, less than 47 percent reported that their families were informed when they had been absent.

The good news is that there is increasing recognition of the importance of school attendance. Government leaders are talking about the issue: California Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, for example, recently co-wroteLos Angeles Times op-ed column on the need for accountability to address absenteeism. Lawmakers are holding school districts accountable for attendance and linking their state funding to improvement. And nonprofit and for-profit organizations are collaborating to provide education about these problems and tools to help solve them.

These collaborations are going a long way toward bringing the attendance crisis into the public consciousness. Public awareness campaigns financed by governments, private donors and nonprofits are popping up across the country, from Newark to Minneapolis to Sacramento. City initiatives, such as New York City’s Mayor’s Task Force on Truancy and Absenteeism, are drawing on research from nonprofits like Attendance Works and piloting tools to promote attendance and family engagement. Nonprofits including Get Schooled are educating students about attendance in partnership with community-based programs such as City Year.

The Grad Nation initiative has set a goal of increasing national high-school completion rates from the current 75 percent to 90 percent by 2020. Closing a 15-percentage-point gap is just seven years won’t be easy, and improving attendance alone will not close the nation’s achievement gap. But by working together to ensure that all students are in school all day every day, government, the public and the private sectors each can have a hand in providing our youth with the basic opportunity to learn.

Contributor: Miriam Altman, Co-founder, Kinvolved, miriam@kinvolved.com 

Huffington Post: Recruiting Talented STEM Teachers Is a Must for our Kids and Country

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Huffington Post

A blog on Huffington Post discusses the importance of bringing STEM into the classroom, sharing how Kinvolved co-founder Miriam Altman created Kinvolved to bring technology to the classroom and to combat absenteeism at the same time.

While teachers may not be in a laboratory every day, they are absolutely spearheading the innovations that will move our country forward. Not only are they training the next generation to navigate ambiguity, think analytically, and act strategically — thus enabling future leaders to break new ground for the collective good — but they’re also pioneering cutting-edge education methods themselves.

Read the full article here.

$200K Awarded in NYU Stern School of Business Entrepreneurs Challenge

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American Entrepreneurship

American Entrepreneurship reports how Kinvolved co-founders Miriam Altman and Alexandra Meis won the Social Venture Competition in NYU Stern’s Entrepreneurs Challenge.

On May 3rd the best of New York University’s entrepreneurship was on display at the finals of the annual Entrepreneurs Challenge, in which three teams of entrepreneurs shared $200,000 in prize money.

See the full post here.

NYU Teams Win $200K in Stern’s 2012–2013 Entrepreneurs Challenge

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Entrepreneurs Challenge

Kinvolved’s founders were awarded the $50,000 Social Venture Prize during Stern’s 2012–2013 Entrepreneurs Challenge.

The $50,000 Social Venture Prize went to Kinvolved, a program that aims to reduce truancy by providing real-time data to teachers, families, and students on classroom attendance and facilitating partnerships between schools and community organizations to increase student engagement.

See the full post here.

PennToday: Penn’s Fels Institute of Government Announces Winner of First National Invitational Public Policy Challenge

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Fels Institute

In the competition, undergraduate and graduate students presented comprehensive policy proposals or civic campaigns to address an issue specific to their university’s community.

In a time where so many young people are feeling disenfranchised, these students are taking proactive and productive steps to better our communities. We commend all the participants on their passionate and insightful proposals and congratulate the Kinvolved team on their exciting win.

See the full article here.

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