At the Princeton Area Community Foundation, we’re working to improve student outcomes by improving school attendance rates.
Through our All Kids Thrive initiative, we have invested a total of $3 million in grants that will be paid out over five years to 10 school-nonprofit partnerships that are working to get kids to school. That’s because we know that while education can be a path out of poverty, poverty can also prevent students from getting to school. And chronic absenteeism, defined as missing just 10 percent of the school year – about two days a month – means students lose opportunities to succeed throughout their lives.
Our school and nonprofit partners are working across the spectrum to reduce chronic absenteeism rates. For example, we have two district-wide initiatives; and two others are working with ninth-graders; one program is providing before-school care and serving breakfast to students who live in a public housing complex; another is looking at health conditions that may cause absenteeism; and the other four are working with elementary or middle school students, including one that is using the arts to help encourage attendance.
We have created learning opportunities, so our grantees are able to learn from each other and we can learn from them. We are also working with an outside evaluator, Metis Associates, because we want to obtain a true measure of our impact. We want to share our findings with policy makers, such as school board members and state legislators. We hope to help them understand which approaches to reducing absenteeism work best, so they can help establish best practices at schools throughout our region and the state, reaching many more students.
Key Findings – Metis Associates’ Year One Report
In year one, that evaluator found that the All Kids Thrive initiative demonstrated significant impact, and it reached tens of thousands of students, parents, teachers, and other key stakeholders.
They also found:
- 60% of grantees reported improvement in school climate
- 50% saw improvements in academic outcomes
- 50% reported reductions in absenteeism and 40% saw reductions in chronic absenteeism
- 40% saw reductions in tardiness
Grantees also reported successes in addressing some of the root causes of chronic absenteeism, including:
- improvements to school policies and practices
- shifts in school staff attitudes about absenteeism; and
- increases in parents’ and students’ knowledge about the importance of school attendance.
Grantees also gained a better understanding of how to address root causes of chronic absenteeism; for example, they provided services to address food insecurity, housing, language barriers, environmentally aggravated health issues, and lack of a supportive school environment.
The program also stimulated the development of new projects, leading to unintended positive consequences.