02 Nov Can a New Chromebook Lure Absentee Students Back to Class?
California school district hopes to combat absentee rates by launching a one-to-one computer program and giving students the chance to win a Chromebook.
Apparently, Ferris Bueller was wrong. Faking illnesses to skip school and crash a parade is not the smartest way to make sure you don’t miss out on life. In fact, studies show that a pattern of absenteeism puts students on a dangerous path of academic decline that frequently leads to poverty and incarceration. According to the 2015 California Attorney General’s report on truancy, 83% of chronically absent kindergarten students in the state read below their grade level by third grade, making them four times more likely to become dropouts.
In California, missing at least 10% of the school year is defined as chronic absenteeism. That amounts to 18 days in a 180-day school year, or two days a month. Absenteeism is especially high among boys and students of low socioeconomic backgrounds, solidifying the cycle of poverty. An estimated 8% of California elementary students, or 230,000, are chronically absent annually, which leads to loss of district funding based on average attendance rates.
One reason for the low attendance rates is that parents aren’t educated about the effects of skipping out. The report showed that many parents believe attendance is more important in high school and kids will catch up before their teen years. They also thought that only consecutive absences are damaging.
Administrators in the Banning Unified School District in California hope to raise the local attendance rate from 93% to 96 percent in the 2015-2016 school year. The Student Services Department employs outreach counselors and psychologists to help resolve problems that lead to frequent truancy, such as homelessness. Banning also offers salary incentives to teachers who proactively track absentee rates and routinely contact parents when students miss a day of school.
Conveying the importance of attendance to students isn’t easy, so Banning is using a creative approach. In addition to ongoing incentives, such as class parties and field trips, the district is hosting a Chromebook raffle for students who show up on time every day without leaving early from November to January. Banning is a district with many low-income families that can’t afford pricy technology, so the opportunity to win a free computer may give some students the competitive motivation they need to thrive in the classroom.
The district is also introducing a Chromebook one-to-one program at Banning High School to close the digital divide and give students from low-income families a better chance of achieving success. The ability to work remotely on Chromebooks can help students stay connected to teachers and avoid missing assignments even when household obstacles prevent them from reaching school.
Banning administrators also recognize that lack of Internet access at home is one of the biggest challenges local families face. The district plans to sell low-cost mobile hotspots that can support up to four Web devices, making it easier for low-income parents to provide Internet after school hours.