The winner of last year’s seven-week competition, a Seattle middle school, received a private concert from R&B performer Ne-Yo, who also served as principal for a day to recognize the 3.7 percent jump in the school’s average daily attendance rate of 89 percent.
“The issue of attendance, if you look at the evidence, there are many things that drive it, but one of those is engagement and feeling part of a school community,” said Get Schooled Executive Director Marie Groark. “A friendly competition motivates people. It motivates students, all of us.”
Elk Grove Unified School District outside Sacramento has made rewards a hallmark of its school attendance strategy for six years. As part of the “No Excuses — Go to School” campaign, middle- and high-schoolers with a month’s worth of perfect attendance have been entered into raffles for laptops, while elementary-schoolers with the same records have for bicycles. Local businesses donate the prizes.
The program has been so successful the district changed the rules for winning the grand prize — a $20,000 voucher for the local auto mall, which also agreed to pay taxes and licenses on the winner’s new car. To be eligible, high school seniors used to need one month of perfect attendance over the school year. Starting last year, the criterion was raised to five months.
The attendance push has been particularly strong in California, New York, Texas and other states where schools funding is based on how many children are in their seats each day, rather than enrollment.