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Edison Local School District staying in the game to reduce absenteeism

PARTNERSHIP — Edison Jr. and Sr. High School is continuing efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism by partnering with Harvard University’s Proving Ground initiative and the Cleveland Browns for the Get to School, Stay in the Game initiative. Students who regularly attend get rewarded with merchandise from the team and possible tickets to a future game. Pictured with some of the items are seniors Madeline Whitehill, Gracie Phillips, Grayce Andreozzi and seventh-grader Brock Koehnlein with EHS teacher and parent Bill Koehnlein. (Contributed photo)

RICHMOND — Efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism within the Edison Local School District are showing promise as officials partner with Harvard University and the Cleveland Browns through the Get to School, Stay in the Game initiative.

The district is currently in its second year with the program and works with Harvard’s Proving Ground initiative to identify and test solutions to the specific challenges of chronic absenteeism, a primary obstacle to student achievement.

According to district officials, great strides have been made since the program and other efforts have been implemented, and Edison has reported a 50-percent drop districtwide.

Assistant Superintendent Julie Kireta said various methodologies have been instituted reduce the numbers, and they are working. According to statistics, the district’s rate of chronic absenteeism was 16.3 percent during the 2018-19 school year and dropped by half to 8.4 percent last year.

“The state target for 2019-2020 was 11.5 percent,” she said. “One of the district’s goals was to improve attendance for the school year.”

Much of the effort is currently being concentrated at Edison Jr. and Sr. High School, where officials are looking to reduce numbers and help students stay on the right path. About 450 students are currently learning in person at the building with another 115 junior and senior high pupils working at home due to COVID-19. Assistant Principal Josh Leasure said students who remain on course could also earn sweet rewards as a result.

“Through our partnership with Harvard University, we reviewed the data and discovered one missing day of school is equivalent to missing five days of math instruction and three days of English or Language Arts instruction,” said Leasure. “To help our students who want to ‘Get to School and Stay in the Game,’ we established a partnership with the Cleveland Browns to create some excitement for our students who come to school.”

The Cleveland Browns Foundation has sent students a variety of team merchandise including T-shirts, game balls, headphones and autographed photos. The district has received tickets for home games in the past but that has been impacted by COVID-19 and seating has since been limited at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“It has generated a lot of excitement for our students to stay in the game and come to school. Our teachers are speaking to students even more about the importance of daily attendance and its impact on our students’ academic achievement,” he added. “Even our Steeler-faithful students are excited at the chance to get an autographed photo of Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckem Jr. or win free tickets to FirstEnergy Stadium.”

Leasure said officials have seen improvements since the program began and are now trying to reconfigure plans to incorporate remote learners.

“Our largest area of improvement in attendance at the high school was related to partial absences such as tardies, late arrivals and early releases. We improved student partial absences by increasing communication with parents via post cards, mailings and phone calls,” he said. “We are still figuring out how to make remote a part of the program. As students complete their assignments and participate on Google Meets/Hangouts with their class and teachers, they will also have the opportunities to win prizes from the Cleveland Browns.”

He continued that the goal is for students to achieve success in life, and that lesson should also be reinforced at home.

“We want our parents to know they have the greatest hand in their child’s future success. That success begins by getting your child to school every single day and it helps students understand the importance of attendance and learning every single day,” he concluded. “Remember, absences can be sneaky and build up quietly. Never forget the importance of getting your child to school every day or supporting their participation and engagement in remote education.”

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