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Grants Pass schools improving attendance

Grants Pass High School. (KTVL)
Grants Pass High School. (KTVL)
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The State of Oregon is releasing a report for absenteeism in about two weeks, but Grants Pass School District 7 has already been compiling their own data regarding their district’s attendee record. And so far the numbers are looking good due to an absentee program they’ve been working on since 2017.

According to their report, absenteeism has improved from 14.3% in 2017 to 10.6% this year. That’s an improvement of 3.7%, which equates to around 220 students showing better attendance.

It all began with a state report that came out on absenteeism about five years ago. Director of Secondary Education Trisha Evens said they immediately noticed a trend.

“When they did that, we had 3 years of our data being relatively unchanged," Evens said regarding the data it showed on her district.

Absenteeism was high.

Since 2018, the district has been utilizing a software program called School Innovations and Achievements that tracks enrollment and notifies parents of absences.

“Through data and through a lot of decision rules, we target students who are at most risk behaviors related to attendance (and) meet with them and their parent,” Evens said.

Evens said they first discuss with their parents what may be going on that would break a student’s routine for attending school. From there, she said, they set up a program with incentives to encourage better attendance.

“It really does start with that intentional relationship that we’re trying to build as the adults with the students that come in.” Evens said. But she said it’s really about building relationships.

“It really goes to how do we get kids motivated intrinsically and not need that extrinsic award,” Evens said. “But sometimes that needs to happen in order to get to the intrinsic.”

Evens said the core to those relationships is building a welcoming environment for the students. Each school has its own program and own input based on their own unique situation.

"If you look at the heart of what those schools did, it wasn't the incentives.” Evens said. “It was what they did with their students to help build connections to schools as adults. Being that competent caring adult that you can come to school and know I"m there for you. How can I help?"

Evens said she’s seen graduation rates at Grants Pass High School dip down to 73%. But with the new incentives and the new relationships, she expects graduation rates this year be more than bypass the 80% mark.

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