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How a Collective of Boston Public Schools Sparks Attendance

Cynthia Rogan October 25, 2019

For our partner, the Success Mentors Collaborative, a cohort of three districts in Massachusetts, the answer is hard work, radical collaboration, deep reflection, cutting edge interventions, detailed planning, and impassioned implementation. Here’s the story of how those things came together this year.

We partnered with the Success Mentors Collaborative in Boston, Massachusetts to bring together three communities on a journey to reimagine how their attendance improvement process could work. This was completed in two phases, with the first phase taking place before the start of the school year. We worked closely with the leadership teams from Holyoke Public Schools, Lawrence Public Schools, and Springfield Public Schools in addition to the leadership team of the Family Services of Merrimack Valley, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, and Springfield School Volunteers. This small group conducted interviews with school stakeholders and students, explored trends in interventions and demands for attendance improvement, and then crafted and honed the Success Mentors Collaborative to implement network-wide.

The group had 4 aims: to create proactive interventions, to create joyful and positive interventions, to be able to navigate barriers to attendance and finally, to be able to track and recognize results.

The second phase of this work brought together 3 teams from each of the schools for their first convening. This cohort gathered to engage with research on the science of Success Mentors, to make meaning of empathy and relationship building work with families and students who would be mentored as part of the program, to seek inspiration from schools around the country who had implemented this model and to build out their norms and expectations for data tracking to really drive towards bold new aims and to actually implement their programming. The teams built skills around data tracking and data literacy that prepared them to roll out this intervention in their community.

Many teams were drawn to the aim of building strong relationships and they drew inspiration from promising Success Mentors models around the country. Taking that momentum, they piloted the idea of having educators (teachers, staff members, caring adults) connect with students three times across an average week to share and reflect about their school experience and to meaningfully connect across lines of difference and specifically around barriers to attendance.

This took various forms across the schools from in-person 5-minute check-ins to longer 30-minute meetings and in some cases student and family circles where they were convening larger groups to connect and learn from each other. Many schools also choose to have their entire staff engage in either deep empathy work or Professional Development around chronic absenteeism so they could then understand the why around students’ absences and so they could know what they could do to help reduce absenteeism and support the intervention.

The coordinators and school leadership teams then came together for convening this spring to share the results of their second-year pilot and receive feedback from schools and educators on their plans to move the work forward. They also got to share lessons from the fields and lessons that they learned in leading innovation in attendance improvement. They each closed the year out with a celebratory event, a deep dive into what each program was aiming to do and a celebration showcase of the hard work of all the school-based teams.

We’re immensely proud of all the hard work of all the school based teams and grateful to have worked alongside the Success Mentor Collaborative team to make this experience a success. As we step back and think about what this experience can say to others driving towards similar work, we’re really mindful of the implications of doing this work in community with others, the importance of tracking data to ensure efficacy of interventions, the power of relationships in attendance improvement and doing this work in a scalable measurable way for both students and adults.

So far these districts have reduced absences by an average of 25%. In individual districts, certain grade levels saw a reduction in the total number of chronically absent students by as much as 54%! The work being done by this group is truly commendable and we salute their efforts to ensure all their students are in school every day. We thank these hard-working educators for allowing AllHere to be their partners in this work and we’re excited to follow along as the Success Mentors Collaborative work continues to unfold.

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