2017-11-30 / Front Page

Rogers Rolls Out New Attendance Initiatives

By Brooke Constance White

Rogers High School administrators are taking action to raise student attendance numbers. Rogers Principal Jared Vance says the new initiatives being implemented are meant to motivate students to attend school.

On Nov. 21, Vance met with all grade levels to discuss the new attendance incentives. In addition to explaining the importance of being present, on-time and prepared for school, he announced the incorporation of a number of school-wide competitions to help promote attendance and discourage truancy.

Beginning on Nov. 27, all high school students will compete for the best attendance percentage during the semester, and the winning grade will earn a special event, Vance said. Also, he said, homerooms with the best attendance will be awarded a pizza party and individual students with high attendance will be recognized throughout the year and entered into drawings for local gift certificates.

Vance said he hopes that incentivizing attendance will build excitement and motivate students to want to be at school each day, and that he’d like to see the daily attendance rate land between 95 and 100 percent. While he said these kinds of changes take time and he hasn’t set a hard and fast date for this goal, he wants to be close by the end of the first semester in late January.

At the moment, more than 100 students, or about 16 percent of the RHS student body are absent on a daily basis.

“Students receive detention for multiple unexcused absences but this is a way to reward them for being here,” he said in a phone interview on Nov. 27. “It’s positive reinforcement and it’s fun. It’s a way for the students to look at this differently.”

The problem is district-wide and local organizations such as Newport County Mental Health and Newport Partnership for Families have collected and analyzed data that the district is using to address the chronic attendance issue in the city’s schools. Although school administrators and community partners have made inroads to increase attendance rates at the elementary and middle school level, the high school remains a challenge.

Vance is a firm believer that success in Newport’s schools and particularly at Rogers begins with strong attendance numbers.

“We’re trying everything we can to get kids into school,” he said. “Being present is the first step to success with our students and we hope the community and student’s families will support this important initiative.”

Since 2013, school administrators and school committee members have been publicly voicing concern about the high rates of absenteeism in the district’s schools after a study conducted by Channel 12 in August of that year reported that Rogers had the 13th highest rate of chronically absent students in the state, with 41 percent of students missing more than 18 days of the school year.

In the last few years, the district and partnering organizations have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for initiatives to help reduce chronic absenteeism and truancy.

Based on data collected through surveys and focus groups, one of the biggest reasons for the high absenteeism rates concerns students’ need to have a caring adult mentoring and encouraging them. Because of this, the district has been working with local nonprofits to strengthen leadership and mentoring programs in the district.

According to Sharon Carter, director of the community support organization Newport Partnership for Families, other reasons for absenteeism and truancy include health issues, lack of transportation, caring for a parent or other family member, an inability to walk or bike to school in bad weather, lack of interest, bullying, and not feeling welcomed at school.

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