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Elementary Attendance Issues in Low Socioeconomic Area

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Presenting Behavior:
Please describe the behavior:
Poor attendance.

How old is the student?
Multiple students, elementary.

Frequency and duration of behavior?
Frequently, weekly basis at least.

What happens before and after behavior?
Unknown

What does the student get from engaging in the behavior?
Unknown

What is the emotional state of the student during the behavior?
Seems poor.

Who is the behavior directed at?
School, teacher, etc.

Is the behavior intentional or involuntary?
Apparently both.

Medication side effects?
N/A

Student strengths and interests?
Multiple students.

Have you noticed any patterns?
Multiple students.

Other information and comments:
Low socioeconomic, rough neighborhoods, etc.

Possible Interventions:
Take a look at another PBIS World Forum discussion on this topic at the high school level here. Even though it is not the same age group, there may be some elements in there that can be adapted to younger students.

With this age group and socioieconomic status, it could be effective to set up a "school store" where students earn school reward dollars to buy things in the store.

This school store system can be a school-wide system or can be done by one class. The premise of the school store, when applied to pervasive attendance issues, is that students earn school dollars by being in school. The less they are in school, the fewer opportunities they have to earn school bucks and buy cool stuff in the school store. As kids get a taste of buying from the school store, it should create a "buzz" among the students and make some want to be in school who are frequently absent.

I created school dollars and have a link to them on PBIS World. They download as a PDF file and look like real money. There are several currency amounts, like $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and I think $100. On each one there is a space where you can type in anything your want, like your school name or the name you might give your currency, for example, "Tiger Bucks". And this whole system serves a dual purpose of getting students to use math, budgeting, delaying immediate gratification, etc. All items in the store would have prices and these prices could be set and adjusted to line up with how many school dollars they are earning. It would probably take a month or two to get a sense of the best price ranges.

This whole system can be super simple or more in-depth. If this is for an entire school or several schools, then I would create a more in-depth School Store. By more in-depth, I mean having a large range of items the students could buy as opposed to just a few. Having a more robust school store would be a larger incentive to kids and seem more magical I would think, more like a real store.

This is a system and incentive program that requires some real planning and ground work. In addition to creating and teaching the students the framework for how they earn the school dollars, you have to establish and stock the school store. Items for purchase in the school store can be donated, made, can be non-tangible things like computer time, movie time, time with their favorite teacher or adult or lunch with them, etc. If funding would be an issue for getting the school store going, you could do some fundraisers or approach the PTO or other organizations.

You would need a wide range of items or incentives in the school store to reflect all price ranges. Students could save their school bucks up to buy bigger ticket items. Some really good "big" incentives that students would want to save for that would cost you no money would be lunch with a policeman, firefighter, doctor, dentist, paramedic (kids would like if it were stated as "ambulance guy"), pilot, the principal, etc. Other tangible items could be pencils, candy, $10 gift card to McDonalds, etc. Reward ideas could also be gotten from the students themselves by having each teacher take one morning and get all their students to write down 5 rewards they would like, big and small.

Another big part of the system is determining how and when kids get school bucks. The system needs to be such that kids buy-in right away, so you would want some rewards in the store that only take the lowest currency to get, which would be a dollar. At the dollar level, there could be a bunch of small things to buy. Students would than have incentive the first day to start earning and be in school. You would also need to develop what behaviors earns school bucks. If attendace is an issue, students could earn $1 per day just for being present. Perhaps good attendance for a week or month would earn more school bucks, like 2 weeks of good attendance earns $5 extra school bucks. Teachers and staff would be handing these school bucks out so all staff would need to be involved in developing this system. So for example, helping someone would earn a student 1 school buck. Students would not be allowed to ask for school bucks either. Rather, teachers and staff would have to observe the good deed or behavior and offer the school bucks. If students ask for them, they do not get them. Another example would be if a student sticks up for another student getting teased, that student gets $5 school bucks. You would really need to think through what observed behaviors earn what number of school bucks so everyone was on the same page and there were no inconsistencies. If one teacher starts giving a higher currency for the same behavior another teacher is giving a lower currency for, the kids will quickly notice and cry fowl. So its very important everyone is giving the same amount of school bucks for the same behaviors no matter whose class or what part of the school it is in.

Another thing to think about is where and when students would get to spend their earned school bucks. It is best to have classes go to the school at specified times rather than just opening it up to the whole school all at once. This would be too chaotic. So on Friday afternoons, for example, during the last hour or two of school classes would be called down to the school store and would have 10 minutes to shop then return to class.

To help keep students from counterfeiting the school bucks, you could use a unique ink stamp and stamp all school bucks before they are given to teachers and students. Another thought is to have teachers mark down how much and who they gave the school bucks to. This is more laborious, but would help with data collection and showing if the program is working.

As far as data collection and proving the program is or is not working, you could correlate the number of school bucks a student earns with their attendance. For example, if you keep a record of how many school bucks a student earns and compare that to their attendance record, in theory, more school bucks should equal higher or better school attendance. Additionally, you can compare school attendance records before implementing this whole school bucks thing and then several times after implementing it. If it does show that the program is effective and you keep doing it, then you can continue to look at attendance records quarterly or monthly, looking to see if that progress continues throughout the year and using this data to detect when the school store system needs to be tweaked, adjusted, update, or changed. For example, if the program were to start off well and attendance improved school-wide, but than 6 months later this progress started to decline, this could indicate the students are bored with the rewards in the school store and the school store needs to switch out stock with new things to get students excited.

Also, you could develop a survey that students fill out several times a year to see what they would like to change, add, or take away from the school store or anything they think should change about how and what they get school bucks for. Engaging students like this would also increase buy-in, especially if they were to see their input actually listened to by staff and implemented.

This really is a very big program to get up and running, but at this age group and on a school-wide scale, it may prove to be highly effective at incentivsing kids to be in school more. You would need the whole school on board to make this work. Teachers would all need to be involved in getting it started and planning. Additionally, it would be helpful to get the community involved as well in the form of donating rewards for students to buy with their school bucks. This would involve, like I said before, perhaps policemen donating time and money to take a student to lunch or bring lunch to school and eat with the student. Other examples of donations might be going to the local McDonalds and seeing if they would regularly donate gift certificates. Or if there are local restaurants like Applebee's or Red Robin, etc, see if they would donate gift cards. Kmart, Walmart, or other similar stores may donate gift cards or merchandise. Local dollar stores may donate gift certificates too. Try to think out of the box to minimize the cost to the school, for example, many kids like non-tangible things, like time with adults, helping with tasks, serving in leadership roles, being an office helper, a greeter at the door, etc. I know how tight money is in the schools and how hard funding for these things can be, but if you can get community businesses to regularly donate goods and services, it really will decrease your out of pocket expenses.

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