Early Support, Effective Support: Establishing Community Attendance Support Teams for Middle Schools

 

Lead: Priority Spokane /Spokane Area Business Foundation

Key Partners: Spokane Public Schools, Spokane County Juvenile Court, Empire Health Foundation, and Spokane Regional Health District

Project Location: Spokane, Washington – County

Contact: Alisa D. May, Executive Director of Priority Spokane, priorityspokane@greaterspokane.org or (509) 321-3638

Project Description:

Education is tightly linked with income, which in turn is tied to health. In Spokane County, Washington, 46 percent of adults older than age 24 with less than a high school education live in poverty, versus 31 percent who have completed high school. A lack of education leads to higher levels of poverty and greater health inequities. For example, adults in Spokane County who never finished high school are two and a half times more likely to have heart disease compared to adults with college degrees.

Priority Spokane is setting out to increase high school graduation in the county by identifying and helping at-risk middle school students by improving the middle school experience. Research shows that only 26 percent of area 7th graders and 30 percent of 8th graders with four or more unexcused absences are likely to graduate from high school. Identifying middle school truants is a key start toward improving high school graduation rates but it’s only a start. 

The grant will let the key partners take the next crucial step: establishing Community Attendance Support Teams (CASTs),  a positive and supportive solution to school-attendance issues, and one that may prevent the Juvenile Court system from getting involved. Under CASTs, students with four unexcused absences from middle school are referred to the CAST coordinator. The coordinator will send a letter home, inviting the parents/guardians and student to attend the CAST, which meets in a neutral neighborhood location. By identifying the students with unexcused absences early, CAST members will determine underlying causes of truancy and provide support to help students get back on track. They will also provide solutions and family mental health counseling to help truant children and their families overcome challenges they face—all in the effort to increase graduation rates. Priority Spokane and its partners will educate the superintendent and school board; establish community partnerships and networks among support service providers, the Juvenile Courts, and other community leaders; and will manage the implementation of CASTs in the middle schools.

Matching funds and in-kind resources for this grant were provided by the Spokane Public School District, Spokane County Juvenile Court, Empire Health Foundation, and Washington State University.

Why this work is important:

  • Research has shown that only 26 percent of area 7th graders and 30 percent of 8th graders with four or more unexcused absences are likely to graduate from high school.
  •  In Spokane County, 46 percent of adults older than age 24 with less than a high school education live in poverty, versus 31 percent who have completed high school.
  • A lack of education leads to higher levels of poverty and greater health inequities. For example, adults in Spokane County who never finished high school are two and a half times more likely to have heart disease 

Relevant Information from the 2014 County Health Rankings:

  • Spokane County ranked 22nd out of 39 counties for health outcomes.

  • Eighty-two percent of high school students in Spokane County graduate within 4 years.