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Relationships Matter: Launching an Elementary Success Mentor Initiative

FEBRUARY 13, 2017
BY: HEDY N. CHANG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ATTENDANCE WORKS

Chronic absenteeism in kindergarten, and even pre-K, can predict lower test scores, repeated patterns of poor attendance and retention in later grades, especially if the problem persists for more than a year. Students from low-income communities are especially challenged by chronic absence when their families have fewer resources to make up for lost learning time.

Attendance Works has just released a new toolkit, Relationships Matter, which is designed to help school districts establish a success mentoring program focused on attendance in elementary grades. The toolkit builds upon the ideas and resources from a number of national partners, especially MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Everyone Graduates Center, the New York City Department of Education, and the Center for Supportive Schools.

It also draws from the trailblazing work of a growing number of local efforts, including districts participating in the groundbreaking My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentors initiative, announced in 2016 by the White House and the US Department of Education (ED). To support these efforts, ED launched the National Student Attendance, Engagement, and Success Center (NSAEC) to provide technical assistance nationwide for strategies that prevent and address chronic absenteeism.

“For our social and economic strength, we must make sure that young people who need mentoring most are connected with those relationships,” says David Shapiro, CEO and President, MENTOR. “Chronic absenteeism offers a warning sign of disconnection and calls us to intervene with mentoring by consistent adults who can partner with school and home to provide the support, guidance, and encouragement proven to drive greater attendance. We are proud to partner with Attendance Works on this toolkit.”

Relationship Matter’s tools and resources can encourage good attendance in elementary grades by supporting school districts’ efforts to:

  • Launch an elementary success mentor strategy using seven key steps
  • Define and develop the role of a success mentor, with seven key elements drawn from the experience of the New York City Department of Education
  • Invest time in the recruitment, screening, matching, training and support for the adults who will serve as success mentors
  • Support the development of a principal led team that oversees attendance, the success mentor strategy and a school-wide effort for family engagement and attendance messaging, and
  • Gain support for the success mentor strategy that can ensure this program can go to scale and be sustained over time.

Click here to find the toolkit.

Download and print the Executive Summary.

Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes better policy and practice around school attendance. We promote tracking chronic absence data for each student beginning in kindergarten, or ideally earlier, and partnering with families and community agencies to intervene when poor attendance is a problem for students or schools. Learn more at http://www.attendanceworks.org.

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