Community in Action
Examples of programs, policies, and tools in action.

Supporting school attendance in Yakima County

August 11, 2017

Granger School District in rural Yakima County, Washington, sees school attendance as a complex challenge. To encourage its nearly 1500 students to attend class regularly, the district offers programs that reward improved and perfect attendance. Staff also work directly with students and families to track attendance and to understand and address barriers to attending school.

The “Every Child, Every Seat, Every Day” program, launched in 2014 at Granger Middle School with a grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, helped serve as a catalyst for student progress. The program pairs quarterly and annual prizes, like an iPad for perfect annual attendance, with more comprehensive, family-focused outreach. Multi-stakeholder attendance teams, which often include a family liaison and counselor, are key to monitoring student progress. Bilingual tip sheets and other tools help teams follow up with students and families to discuss absences and make connections to community resources.

Roosevelt Elementary School has also dedicated staff resources to help support student attendance and address underlying causes of absence. The school also uses Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) which helps students learn expectations through positive reinforcement and serves as a framework for regular check-ins about attendance. Bud Clary Toyota of Yakima, a local Toyota dealership, created the Perfect Attendance Creates Excellence program (PACE), which provides free bikes and helmets for elementary school students with perfect attendance, and Roosevelt students have been among the winners.

There are also regional initiatives underway, including “Strive for Less Than Five,” absences-themed programming and participation in national Attendance Awareness Month. And, in the 2017-2018 school year, the state of Washington will require districts with more than 200 students to create community truancy boards.

Together, these efforts are making a difference: for the 2014-2015 school year, the State of Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reports that the rate of chronically absent students in the Granger School District was near 3%, far below the state average of 16%.

For more about Granger School District, visit their website. You can also learn about this work through Yakima Herald stories here and here. To connect with Yakima Valley Community Foundation, contact Lindsay Boswell, Program Officer, at [email protected].

Communities in Action provide examples of strategies or tools in action. Their purpose is to connect like-minded communities in their implementation efforts, giving insight into how others are tackling key challenges and what they've accomplished. To learn more about the evidence supporting this strategy's effectiveness or resources to help move towards implementation see the What Works for Health summary of Attendance interventions for chronically absent students.

Date added: August 11, 2017