They say it takes a village to raise a child. In this case, it is taking the efforts of an entire region to address a very serious issue in our schools. Eight district school boards in the Thunder Bay Region are working together to address a problem that is having a profound effect on student achievement – persistent student absenteeism. The “HERE” attendance campaign was launched at the Spring meeting of the Northern Ontario Education Leaders (NOEL) on Tuesday, May 9. The campaign was designed to build awareness around the attendance issue in Northwestern Ontario and to provide communications support tools to Boards and schools to help improve attendance.
According to data collected in the 2013-14 school year, students in the Thunder Bay Region (from Kenora to Manitouwadge) had the highest rates of persistent absenteeism in the province. Students are considered persistently absent if they miss 10% of the days they were expected to be in school. In the Thunder Bay Region, the rate of persistent absenteeism was 21.6%. A recent study, Every School Day Counts: Persistent Absenteeism in Ontario, 2016, indicates students who miss an average of two days per month in elementary school stand a 60% chance of dropping out in grade nine, potentially impacting their opportunities for success in the future.
“While the reasons for student absences are diverse and varied across the region, the issue of persistent absenteeism is creating significant consequences for both students and schools,” says David Tamblyn, Director of Education for Superior Greenstone District School Board and NOEL Representative. “If the absenteeism trend is allowed to continue, this issue will greatly impact students and their ability to achieve and prepare for their futures. The time to act is now. “
The reasons for persistent absenteeism across the region are diverse and varied and can include:
- Mental health issues
- Poverty issues
- Sporting events
- Medical appointments
- Family travel
- Family commitments
Persistent absenteeism is a multi-faceted issue that affects diverse groups of students and families. In order for solutions to be effective, they must be focused towards sparking action amongst key influencers including students, parents, school, staff and the community at large.
“Fortunately, the eight district school boards are HERE for our students and their families,” says Tamblyn. “We recognize that there is a not a one size fits all solution to solve the issue of persistent absenteeism and we have worked collaboratively to develop a campaign with communications resources that can be used in all parts of the region.”
The HERE campaign is supported by the development of the HERE website – heretoolkit.com. School board and school staff will be able to log into the site and access the following resources to support their efforts to address attendance issues within in their Boards and schools:
- Print ad templates
- Digital ad templates
- Social Media ad templates
- Radio ad template
- Roll up displays and Banner
- Toolkit newsletter template
- Presentation Template
The HERE website will also provide background information on the issue of persistent absenteeism, guidance on how to use the resources, a section for school staff to share best practices on improving attendance and a section where school staff can receive answers to questions about the HERE campaign. In addition, each NOEL Board will receive a special Here Toolkit Box containing posters, buttons, jump drives loaded with resources including the video and special HERE lanyards.
“The efforts to address persistent absenteeism does not start and end with the HERE attendance campaign,” says Colleen Kappel, Lakehead Public Schools Superintendent of Education and HERE Campaign Team Member. “Through the Managing Information for Student Achievement (MISA) initiative, we have also started a persistent absenteeism research project with a Lakehead University Researcher to take an in-depth look at the issue and the related causes and effects. It is anticipated that the findings will provide the basis for further opportunities to address the issue.”
For more details please check out this video – https://youtu.be/TFhogbs0ar0
Keewatin-Patricia District School Board
Kenora Catholic District School Board
Lakehead District School Board
The Northwest Catholic District School Board
Rainy River District School Board
Superior-Greenstone District School Board
Superior North Catholic District School Board
Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board