Loma Linda Elementary reduced their chronic absence rate from 12% to 4%. The first step? Making sure that students felt safe at school, both physically and emotionally.
“Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence,” a new report by Attendance Works and the Every Child Graduates Center, featured 12 interventions to prevent chronic absence, including Playworks!
Studies on Playworks show that a better recess environment helps students experience less bullying, feel safer at school, and deepen relationships with caring adults. Bullying, feeling unsafe, and not having trusted adults at school all contribute to chronic absence, according to “Portraits of Change”. This report recommends that all schools can benefit by addressing common barriers to attendance and promote an engaging school climate.
Read on to learn how Loma Linda Elementary reduced chronic absence with Playworks.
Phoenix, Arizona—A K-8 school improves attendance by creating a positive and safe school climate.
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Loma Linda K-8 School once faced many challenges with gang activity, drugs, alcohol, and weapons, especially among its older children. Fighting and bullying stemming from lack of social skills and the ability to solve conflicts were big issues for all grades – including during school recess.
Loma Linda worked hard to put systems in place school-wide to reduce conflict, reduce suspensions and office referrals, and focus on teaching and learning. As one piece of the solution, Loma Linda partnered with Playworks, a national nonprofit that builds social and emotional skills by introducing inclusive and fun playground practices that help students feel involved and active.
Now, Loma Linda’s school climate has become safer and more positive. The change has had a direct impact on attendance. Principal Stephanie De Mar says,
Before we started with Playworks, our chronic absence rate hovered at 12 to 15 percent. Last year, we ended at about 4 to 5 percent.
To change Loma Linda’s playground atmosphere and, in turn, its school culture, the Playworks intervention added more structure and routine. One strategy that proved particularly effective is “Class Game Time.” During Class Game Time, a Playworks coach introduces students and teachers to games they can play at recess. Teachers welcomed the 30 to 45 minutes spent building relationships with students through something beyond instruction. Playworks coaches are trained to promote and teach activities to meet the needs of diverse learners, fostering an inclusive school culture and climate.
As a result, Loma Linda’s school culture and student interaction have improved. The number of students sent to the school office for behavior issues during lunch recess alone dropped from 400 the year before Playworks’ arrival to four the year after. Most office referrals now are students who transferred to the school – and the longer students are enrolled in the school, the fewer issues they experience, a data review shows. Teachers are happier, too. Loma Linda’s teacher turnover has decreased, and staff see benefits of the Playworks intervention in multiple aspects of their jobs.
This story was originally published in “Portraits of Change” and is excerpted with permission.
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