TULSA, OK — Across the nation, chronic absence (missing 10% or more of school for any reason) has at least doubled during School Year 2021-22 in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. The average chronic absenteeism rate across Tulsa County area schools increased from 15% in 2019 to 26% in 2021, with average rates among school districts in some cases differing as much as 30-40 percentage points. Particularly among under resourced groups, supporting consistent attendance is critical to improving equitable educational outcomes as it can lead to positive impacts on third grade reading levels, middle school achievement and high school graduation.
In an effort to promote attendance awareness, ImpactTulsa is highlighting and sharing ways that schools and communities in the Tulsa area are working to address barriers to student attendance. This work involves pushing past assumptions that students or their families simply do not care and are the source of their own absenteeism. This requires the acknowledgment and examination of systemic barriers like access to transportation, harmful school disciplinary practices, or lack of academic or behavioral support. It is through whole community collaboration, driven by data and centered on relationship building, that long-lasting, positive outcomes for attendance can be achieved.
This month’s attendance spotlight is Celia Clinton Elementary:
Given the impacts that COVID-19 has had on attendance in schools during the last two years, Principal Candace Garza knew she wanted to make attendance a priority again. “Staffing shortages, families still concerned with COVID and general seasonal illnesses”, as well as parents being out of practice in bringing their child to school everyday were recent challenges that they anticipated going into the new school year.
In addition to communicating with teachers and staff about the importance of students being at school everyday, Celia Clinton Elementary is focusing on building trusting relationships with families and reigniting student excitement about coming to school.
“We are planning to share attendance information to parents at our upcoming parent-teacher conferences and are hoping to celebrate with parents if we can find donations (items such as gas cards, groceries, laundry/household items),” says Principal Garza.
The school is also celebrating classes that have 100% attendance for the day through announcements and small prizes. While there were only two classrooms that had 100% attendance over the first week, they have observed consistent improvement – celebrating 12 or more classrooms with perfect attendance in recent weeks.
If you’d like to donate and support student attendance initiatives at Celia Clinton, please email Principal Garza at email@example.com.