DC PCSB Brings Schools Together to Discuss Attendance, Improving Student and Staff Morale, and More

DC PCSB hosted a School Climate Brunch on December 6 with school staff to discuss best practices and learn from one another about strategies to increase attendance rates, improve student and staff morale, and much more. Several schools shared their strategies and challenges, including Center City PCS - Brightwood, Latin AMerican Montessori Bilingual PCS, Creative Minds PCS, Friendship PCS - Tech Prep and DC Prep PCS - Edgewood Middle.

The first theme that stood out was the Race and Equity work that some schools are implementing, which has led to a decrease in their suspension rates. An example of this work shows up at one school, where a Race & Equity focus group was started after recognizing certain biases teachers were applying during disciplinary consequences. Then, after reflection of their Code of Conduct, the school made revisions to reflect the school’s new core values. This helped teachers decipher whether a threat was worthy of suspension or not. Students were now able to, instead of missing instruction time, stay in school all day with certain restrictions like having a teacher sign off on a ‘behavioral outcomes’ sheet. “Community Restoration” was also implemented to help give students who struggle in in school suspension the opportunity to do community restoration assignments that their Dean tailors specifically for each student.

Another school leader shared that they believe finding the source of a students’ problem (as opposed to using disciplinary actions to ‘solve’ the issue) will not only help reduce the number of suspensions, but also give school leaders room to come up with a solution for their students’ situation that may be causing them to act out.

Declining attendance rates was another gap that school leaders found to hold them back from being successful. One school took the approach of consulting students with ‘Chat and Chews’ to find the answers to questions like ‘why are you missing school?’ or ‘how can we make school ‘lit’ so you [the student] want to come here?’ Approaching their students as the customer has structured the way that the school serves their students. The school also formed student-led groups such as the Uniform and Attendance Committee that give students a leadership role that allows them to take more initiative in their entire schooling process has proved to be successful. Students at the school now have the flexibility to recommend to school leaders what uniforms they want to wear and how they can encourage students who have poor attendance rates to come to school every day.

A different school, which educates students in lower grades, shared that they have an attendance team that reviews attendance rosters daily, searching for outliers in their review. When they get new students, their old attendance data is sifted through and meetings with families are scheduled beforehand, if necessary, to ensure that the student and family know the importance of being at school on time each day. They also uses notification systems such as “Blackboard Connect” and “Alert Now” to make automatic wake up calls for families and sends automated messages when a student is absent. If a student continues to be absent, school leaders will suggest the child speaks with a counselor while conducting home visits.

The school climate brunch is an event that DC PCSB gives school leaders the opportunity to share best practices with one another. This is the third time DC PCSB has held a school climate brunch.  

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