Providence Children’s Initiative Boosts Elementary Attendance

Providence Children’s Initiative has collaborated with Fogarty Elementary School in implementing an attendance improvement project that aims to boost attendance amongst its students — and so far, it is yielding results.

“In October we identified over 40 kindergarteners who were chronically absent or tardy,” said Michelle Cortés-Harkins, director of the Providence Children’s Initiative.

“Letters were sent home to families offering assistance to overcome problems, which included transportation and health-related issues. The response has been very positive and many family issues have been resolved that were barriers to attendance.”

The attendance improvement intervention, which also involved holding workshops for parents, was developed by the Providence Children’s Initiative based on an analysis of best practices.

“We tapped ideas that worked nationally and brought them to South Providence,” said Ms. Cortés-Harkins.

Since the plan was implemented, over 60 percent of the targeted children have seen their attendance improved. Some of the most critical cases were no longer considered “chronically absent”, which is a label given to students who are missing for at least 10 percent of the school days.

“This is a great start,” said Fogarty school principal Carolyn Johnston.

The Providence Children’s Initiative and Fogarty staff and faculty have also been focusing on other grades. To help reinforce positive attitudes, teachers have been posting lists of students with perfect attendance and giving “shout-outs” to students improving attendance, says the Initiative.

While the usual rate of attendance has been around 93 percent, under the project, the overall school has seen attendance rates as high as 97 percent.

“This wonderfully cooperative effort is getting results,” said Johnston.

The Providence Children’s Initiative, a program of Family Service of Rhode Island is a grassroots effort aiming to build and reinforce student and family education, economic, employment and social outcomes.