EVERY MINUTE COUNTS

Pictured (left to right): Sara Williams (Retail Regional Manager, Fifth Third Bank,) Ron Foor (Community President for Fifth Third Bank,) and Pam Kingery (Executive Director, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo)

Fifth Third Bank is partnering with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) to support students’ school attendance with a donation of 500 alarm clocks. This comes just in time for September’s Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the importance of regular school attendance and reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.

“Alarm clocks are an important resource for our students,” says Pam Kingery, CIS Executive Director. “We are grateful for Fifth Third Bank’s donation, which will help students attend school on time, every day, ready to learn.”

“Every minute counts,” notes Kingery. “Tardies, early departures, excused  and unexcused absences all lead to missed classroom  instruction,  putting students at risk of falling behind. Missing time in school can affect core knowledge, grades, and even graduation rates.”

Fifth Third Bank and CIS agree that good school attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent, missing 10 or more days for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows that’s the point at which absenteeism begins to risk serious consequences.

According to Attendance Works, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving school attendance, starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower third grade reading scores. By middle school it’s a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school. Absence from school is not just a matter of truancy. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves—barriers that the community can help families address.

“School attendance matters to all of us, not just those with school-age children,” says Ron Foor, Community President for Fifth Third Bank. “When our schools graduate more students on time, our communities and our economy are stronger. We have more people who are prepared for the workplace and more engaged in our community’s civic life. Students who attend school regularly are more likely to be employees who attend work regularly. And we know that every second counts in a lot of different ways.  Whether it is school attendance or saving for the future, every second really does matter.”

 

Pop Quiz: Jenna Cooperrider  

img_3224Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Jenna Cooperrider, now in her second year as CIS Success Coach for Kalamazoo Central High School. CIS Success Coaches allow Communities In Schools to have a larger footprint in larger schools. CIS Success Coaches are an extension—a more expansive one—of the case management model. It allows CIS to delve more deeply into a school, to meet student needs. For students who need a moderate degree of support, having that one-on-one support from Jenna or her colleague, O’Neal Ollie, CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School, can be the tipping point that gets students on track and on the road to graduation.

Jenna hails from Waterford, Michigan. She received her undergraduate degrees in English and Psychology from the University of Michigan. She then attended Wayne State University where she earned her Masters in Social Work. Jenna works closely with CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough and she says, “I love when we see the positive changes in kids from working with them. We have a student who was failing and is now passing all his classes—and you know that if you weren’t there, it could have been a different situation.”

Alright, Ms. Cooperrider: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

On fleek.

Pardon?

On fleek. I heard students mentioning this word, using it quite a bit, and thought it was a website. But, it means on-point. My hair’s on fleek.

I feel five percent hipper now.

Yea, the kids really keep me up to date. I like how they teach me things.

Favorite word?

Vacation.

What are you currently reading?

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. It takes place during the Second World War. Kavalier and Clay are cousins, one just escaped from the Czech Republic and one from New York City and they create a new superhero and get a contract to start a new comic book.

As you know, attendance is one of our goals at CIS this year. As a success coach, what is one of the main reasons some kids struggle with attendance?

That’s a hard question to answer. When it comes to attendance, it’s really student specific as to why a particular student isn’t coming to school. There can be common denominators, but when it comes down to asking students, it’s not always the same answer.

What are some of the reasons you hear?

Not having an alarm clock is a big one. Sometimes, students miss the bus and they just don’t have a ride to school. Some don’t like school. Some stay home with a sick brother or sister because their parents have to work. Sometimes, it just takes a phone call to the parents. “What do you mean my kid isn’t in school?” they sometimes say. And then a half hour later that student is in school.

For instance, I’ve worked with a student who was struggling with his attendance. Turns out, he had spotty and unreliable transportation. He was also homeless. I worked closely with Mr. Schrum, our homeless liaison here at Kalamazoo Central. He’s one of our go-to people for resources for kids in these situations. He got the student bus tokens. And now, a school bus picks the student up.

When it comes to addressing attendance issues, CIS needs to not only work with the student, but work closely with the school and also communicate with parents, letting them know what resources are available to help.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?

Besides the obvious—my mom and my dad—I would say my grandma. She was a single mom. She worked really, really hard to support my mom and my aunt. She’s the epitome of hard work. She worked at General Motors while raising two kids on her own. She’s feisty and says what she thinks. I don’t always want to hear what she has to say but she’ll tell me anyways. I respect that.

Thank you, Jenna!

 

 

Know The ABCs Of School Attendance

ABCsAttendance research is discovering what schools have known all along: Our teachers can teach our children….if the children show up. Turns out, attendance is a significant predictor of student performance. Kids who are absent early and often are at greater risk for dropping out of school as well as a whole host of economic, marital, social, and psychiatric problems in adulthood. What’s more, researchers are finding that even students with good attendance suffer academically in environments where absenteeism is a problem.

While attendance is important at all levels of education, attendance in early grades is critical. Much of the work (not to mention money) that helps a child gain school readiness skills in preschool or Head Start programs is negated if that child is chronically absent during kindergarten and first grade. They may have entered kindergarten with the same level of readiness skills as their peers, but by third grade they are woefully behind. In one study, students with poor attendance in their kindergarten and first grades scored an average of 60 points below similar students with good attendance on third-grade reading tests. In math, the gap was nearly 100 points.

September is National Attendance month. However, just because September is slipping away doesn’t mean attendance goes on the back burner. Far from it. Every school day counts, whether it’s in September, March, or May.

According to the National Center for Student Engagement, achieving high attendance rates occurs when parents, schools, and the community work together to get kids to attend and stay in school.

Thank you school and community partners, donors, and volunteers. Together, we are encircling our children and singing the ABCs of attendance…

Alarm Clocks & After-School Coordinators

Boots & Backpacks

Clean Clothes

Deodorant

Eyeglasses

Food in the belly

Gloves & Good night sleeps

Hats

Interns

Jackets

Kindness

Love

Mittens

Nurse Practitioners

Opportunities

Parents & Principals

Quality Programming

Respect

Site Coordinators, Socks & Shoes, Success Coaches

Teachers & Tutors

Underwear

Volunteers & VISTAs

Warm clothes

Xtra support

Youth Development Workers

Zippers that Work on Coats

A terrific op-ed piece written by Dan Cardinali, president of Communities In Schools recently ran in the New York Times.  You can read  ”How to Get Kids to Class” here.

Pastor Gets Real With Young Men

_DSC0843Today we highlight the work of Pastor James Harris. He was honored this past spring at the sixth annual Champ Celebration.  (This is the six installment of a nine part series.)

These days, the road to becoming a man is fraught with peril. The statistics are frightening. Throughout our nation, boys are suspended at roughly twice the rate of girls. Two-thirds of the Ds and Fs given out in school go to boys. Boys are one-third more likely to drop out before finishing high school. African-American males are particularly vulnerable; one in five receives out-of-school suspension compared with one in ten white males.

So when Principal Lisa Van Loo and some of her Kalamazoo Central Staff were reviewing student data and noticed young men with patterns of missing school, skipping classes, academics slipping—clear warning signs that these students were at risk of dropping out—they knew they needed to do something. But what? Principal Van Loo turned to her CIS Site Coordinator Deb Yarbrough who suggested a Men’s group. Researchers have learned from dropouts themselves that one thing that might have kept them in school was if they had someone within their school they felt comfortable talking to and seeking guidance for problems they facedoutside of the classroom.

This men’s group needed the right person for the job, but who? And then Deb thought of Pastor James Harris. As the former CIS Site Coordinator at Edison Environmental Science Academy, Deb had seen first hand the way in which kids had been transformed under his volunteer work as a tutor. So she approached him, and his response? “Let me round up a few others.” He recruited Chris Pompey and Thomas Taylor, III and took them to the CIS Connections training for volunteers.

_DSC0210In the meantime, Deb started meeting with each student to connect them to the group. “It’s no use,” some of them told her. “I’ve messed up too badly. What’s the point? The Promise isn’t for kids like me.”

“Just come once,” she said. “Promise me that.” And they did. Again and again. James and his team are surrounding these young men with love, speaking to each, as Nelson Mandela says, “in his own language, that goes not to his head but his heart.” So Deb wasn’t surprised, when one Thursday, Pastor James dragged a bag of trash into the group. “What’s this?” he asked the young men. “Trash,” they said. “You sure?” he replied. The young men realized that they couldn’t be sure, not until they searched through it. Turns out, mixed in with all that trash was a 100 dollar bill Pastor James had tucked inside an envelope. The lesson learned that day? Despite missteps along the way, value resides inside each of them and they do not need to throw their life away. Pastor James says humbly of his team, “We’re just here to remind them we’ve had those moments too. And we still have those moments. These young men need to know they can make a difference in their lives and they will go on to make a difference in others’ lives.”

_DSC0254-EditOnce skipping school, some on the verge of dropping out, seeds of hope are taking hold in these young men. All eight have improved their attendance and are passing their classes. They are staying in school, setting goals for their future, attending job fairs, arranging and going on college visits, talking about leaving a legacy. When their Site Coordinator asks them how it is going, they now say things like, “I want to be a better role model for my little brother. I’m doing better. I’m on time for class.” “I’m learning what it means to be a man, a father.” “The Men’s group has inspired me to be a better person. They lead me to do the right things. They really inspire me to do my best.” “I’m getting better grades and have eliminated my bad habits.”

“The men’s group,” writes Dariyon, “has pushed me to explore my interest in public speaking.” Dariyon is about to embark on something he once thought impossible, an internship with a radio station.

“I’ve changed,” says Elijah. “I barely went to school. They have motivated me to come back. They inspire me…I’m thinking I might go to Western after I graduate.”

We too have been inspired by James Harris, his passion for young people, his support of students from elementary to high school, his wisdom in bringing other committed volunteers—men like Chris and Thomas to the table, and his willingness to stand up to the silent epidemic that threatens the bright futures of our young men right here in Kalamazoo.

Pastor James Harris, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.