Every Day Matters: CCSD middle school gets creative to address chronic absenteeism

Every Day Matters: CCSD middle school gets creative to address chronic absenteeism

During the 2023-2024 school year, the Clark County School District has set its sights on reducing chronic absenteeism among students.

As part of that effort, CCSD launched the Every Day Matters campaign to encourage daily attendance. The early results are encouraging as the District has reported a five percent increase in attendance through the first two months of the school year.

One school in particular is ahead of the curve in addressing this challenge. Ed Von Tobel Middle School has noted an eight percent increase in attendance thanks to a proactive approach that includes every member of the school community.

Each day, Maritza Espinoza throws on her black polo shirt with the words “attendance officer” emblazoned across the front in gold lettering. One of her job assignments includes heading over to Ed Von Tobel Middle School to make sure students are in class.

Espinoza oversees four attendance officers who are leading a pilot mentorship program at the middle school to engage with chronically absent students to encourage them to attend school every day.

“A normal attendance officer has anywhere between 15-19 schools. We’ve placed 4 attendance officers at one school, and primarily, it’s so they are able to connect with the students more frequently,” Espinoza said.

This mentorship program allows the attendance officers to be more personable with students and consistent with follow-ups. Through daily check-ins, family meetings and house visits, they can really zero in on why students miss class.

“It can be an array of reasons why, and the root cause… The attendance officers at this school are able to I guess build more of a rapport with the students because they’re seeing them more frequently to where they’re more comfortable to relay the information that we need to know so we can help the students become more successful and attend school,” she said.

Chronic absenteeism is a challenge that goes beyond Von Tobel Middle School. When a student misses 10 percent or more school days, they are less likely to succeed academically and more likely to drop out of school.

As part of the mentorship aspect of the program, the staff at Von Tobel are working with families to find the reason for absences, rather than focusing on consequences.

“We tried a different approach and more of a social work standpoint by creating those relationships and making those students feel like they’re wanted on campus, that somebody is checking on them,” said CCSD Attendance Enforcement Coordinator Mollie Fulwider.

When they identify an obstacle, the enforcement officers focus on solutions to help the student overcome the hurdle so they can make it to class on time.

“A situation where a student didn’t have a way to get to school, so we were able to work with community partners to be able to get that student a bike,” Fulwider said. 

Through the first two months of school, the program results are promising across the board.

“We’re already seeing the benefits. Chronic absenteeism is dropping not just with students that are in the program, but because our officers are around campus and making those connections with other students, they’re wanting to take initiative and improve their attendance as well,” Fulwider said.

The staff at Von Tobel, including Principal Leonardo Amador, hope this could serve as a model for other CCSD schools in the future to help all students and parents understand that every day matters.

“It’s imperative to what we do here on our campus. Having kids on our campus on an everyday basis really provides them with that foundation to become successful in the future,” Amador said.

While Von Tobel Middle School is piloting the mentorship program, other CCSD schools are looking at ways to show students, parents and the Clark County community that Every Day Matters. You can learn more about Every Day Matters and subscribe for helpful tips by visiting everyday.ccsd.net.