Community Task Force Teams Up to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

Problem Statement Retired elementary school principal and AmeriCorps Member Doug Cameron, school officials and other community volunteers worked together to form a task force to reduce chronic absenteeism in the Grinnell Newburg School District Elementary Schools. Observable Progress The aim of the task force was to focus on chronic absenteeism to help build positive relationships with students and their caregivers to ensure kids get to school, on time, every day. Through this effort the Attendance task force created a “late bus” and initiated peer coaching for families who were having difficulty getting kids to school. Now fewer students are chronically absent (decreasing from 15% to 6% among targeted k-4th graders between 2017 and 2019).

The Story Behind the Story  While serving as an AmeriCorps Member for two grant terms, retired elementary school principal Doug Cameron, a community leader and champion for several different Grade Level Reading focus areas in Grinnell, Iowa, helped lead the attendance strategy. His leadership, combined with the Grinnell Education Partnership’s structure, allows for a great deal of experimentation and creativity, yet is also mindful of making sure successful programs can be sustainable into the future. Because of the positive momentum of this effort, the Grinnell Newburg School District hired a full-time Family Engagement and Attendance Coordinator in the fall of 2017 to ensure sustainability of this important priority.