Creative positive reinforcement boosts attendance at Greenwood

By Dick Mason, The Observer July 05, 2013 11:02 am

Alarm clocks, trinkets and Jake the Giant.

What do they have in common?

They are helping Greenwood Elementary School take a leading role on the attendance front in the La Grande School District. 

Recently released statistics indicate that Greenwood led the district in attendance in 2012-13. Greenwood’s attendance rate was 95.39 percent in 2012-13 and up .13 percent during a year when attendance in the district’s five other schools was down. Attendance has been up each year at Greenwood since 2011. 

Greenwood’s strong attendance may reflect  the school’s focus on creative reinforcement. 

Greenwood’s staff focuses on creative strategies for helping students who have had problems getting to school, said Mike Gregory, who recently retired as the school’s principal. Gregory served as principal the past 11 years.

Greenwood’s attendance program includes Jake’s Club, which is for students who are frequently absent. Members of  Jake’s Club receive rewards such as trinkets for improved attendance. 

The club is named after Greenwood’s popular mascot, Jake the Giant.

The school also helps students with attendance problems by providing  alarm clocks for children who need them. This is usually done for students who are from families who might have a hard time
obtaining them because of financial
needs. 

“We have provided alarm clocks to one or  two students a year,” Gregory said.    

Another step involves contacting the parents of students who have attendance issues and asking what the school can do to assist them. Counselors and classroom teachers are among those who contact families.

“We made contact with parents to see what we could do to help,” Gregory said.

School officials tell these parents how critical it is for students to not miss class.

“We remind them how important attendance is for success in school,” Gregory said.

Greenwood’s staff also tells parents of strategies they can use to help children who have poor attendance because of behavior issues.

La Grande School District leaders will soon be looking at the successful steps taken at Greenwood to boost attendance, said Superintendent Larry Glaze. This will be done as plans are developed to help the district reach its goal of 96 percent overall attendance in 2013-14. The school district’s overall attendance rate in 2012-13 was 94.16 percent, down from 94.88 percent in 2011-12.

Attendance may have been down slightly overall in 2012-13 but was still well over the state standard of 92 percent.