FARMINGTON —A new program at Mt. Blue Middle School is giving students an initiative to be in school.
The “Strive for 5” program encourages students to tally five or fewer absences in a school year, explained principal James Black.
After reviewing behavioral, academic and attendance data at the end of last year, Black noted there were 1,392 missed days of school recorded.
“These missed days are not excused; they are not students being out for a doctor appointment; and they are not suspensions,” explained Black. “These are days kids did not show up for school and we have no idea why.”
Black said the missed days were spread among the 550 or so students enrolled at the school.
“Some kids missed 5 or 6 days, some missed 30. A lot of kids were involved in that number. If even one day of school is missed, something is lost,” he said. “The more time students are in school, the more they are learning.”
After some research, Black initiated the “Strive for 5” program. Student groups, called communities, earn incentives for having the best attendance record each week.
“When we announced the winner last week, you could hear the kids cheering all the way down the hall,” remarked Black.
“The kids do get pretty excited about winning,” added teacher Niki Greenlaw. “It’s a little healthy competition between communities and it gives kids something to think about.”
Last week, the community with the least absences earned an extra recess. Going forward, there will also be an incentive for the most improved community.
“There are posters and bulletin boards throughout the school reminding kids to ‘Strive for 5’. Teachers and staff talk about it with their classes and it is part of the morning announcement,” explained Black.
Black greets students each day, so it is easy for him to pinpoint the students that attend regularly. Of course, teachers are also aware of students who are absent. If a student misses a day or two, everyone makes a point of checking in with the student to see if anything needs to be addressed.
“Yes, it is an initiative to get kids to school but it is not just about data. It’s about making connections with kids,” explained Black. “It’s about kids knowing somebody missed them at school.”
Teacher Patty Veayo pointed out attendance could be difficult when it comes to illness.
“Even so, students are listening and they want to be here. The connections that are being made gives students one more reason to want to be here,” Veayo said.
Students are enthusiastic about the program and talking it over with their peers and parents, Black said. He said parents seem to be more aware of absences.
“Once kids knew about it, word spread quickly. I don’t know if we will see a difference but, if nothing else, people are talking about it,” Black remarked.
“The program is helpful in showing students they can’t skip school for no reason. It gives us guidelines for attendance,” said sixth-grade student Meadow Wilbur, 11, of Farmington.
Avery Jessen, 11, of Temple is also in the sixth-grade. She said, “It encourages kids to come to school more often.”
Black added, “We will know at the end of the year if we have had an impact. You can have the best food, the best school and the best staff but if kids are not here, it makes it tough.”