A student-led initiative at Central High School in Tulsa hosted Food Truck Fridays as an effort to increase attendance during May, a month in which attendance historically drops. Food On The Move partnered with ImpactTulsa to provide free food and fresh produce to students who met the qualifying criteria.
The goal of this initiative was to increase average daily attendance on certain historical dip days at the end of the school year. ImpactTulsa focused on understanding the best meeting structures and processes to use with the student attendance team.
Using a data-centered approach, the team first evaluated historic and current data to identify patterns and trends. ImpactTulsa also reached out to those most closely impacted by the challenge, students, to be a part of the solution. The organization aligned with the TPS Data Team, Attendance Works and community partners to provide resources for this initiative.
ImpactTulsa co-created a student attendance team model for the duration of the 2018-2019 school year that would continue through the 2019-2020 school year with Central High School. Students gathered information needed to inform decisions made by the team. The students’ ideas were supported and implemented for the end of the year; including a school-wide Barbeque, Food Truck Fridays and field trips. ImpactTulsa supported by identifying resources needed to carry out tests designed by the student attendance team.
After the events, the TPS Data Team provided data comparing average daily attendance percentages from 2017 to 2019 during the incentive period.
Engaging students in the creation of incentives proved successful in increasing attendance. The data revealed that when students were working toward a specific goal and had a reason to attend school each day, attendance drastically increased.
The data showed evidence that momentum was building around this student led initiative by week two. Students meeting the requirement for perfect attendance in week two increased by 14 percent in comparison to previous years. Over the final three weeks of the project, students meeting weekly perfect attendance as well as requirements for the incentive increased by an average of 12 percent in comparison to previous years.
Personalized, planned events at the end of the school year in May tied to attendance increased the school’s average daily attendance rate, while other high schools’ attendance declined across the district.
This study suggests that incentives can be used to selectively encourage attendance during weeks where attendance might be low, such as around major breaks or the end of the school year.