Written by Franck Reyherme on September 06, 2018
Illuminate BI Tool Blog is back for the start of the new academic year, and this month, in recognition that September is Attendance Awareness Month, we’re focusing on a powerful attendance report created by Scott Johnston-Roark at Romulus Community Schools. After most of us (hopefully!) were able to get some much needed rest in July, things are back in full swing for the 2018-19 school year. In case you missed it, please check out July’s blog post about Tustin Unified’s Comprehensive Data Report for English Learners written by Mindy Thai.
Scott’s “Attendance Update Parent Report” is both simple and impactful, and like other reports highlighted in this blog, the report is designed to make the data actionable by not only visualizing data, but also offering practical solutions. The report is clear, easy to understand, and most importantly, puts the data in context without which the data would not be nearly as meaningful. The purpose of the report is to be proactive and address what Scott calls a “paramount challenge” in education: absenteeism. Read all about it below!
Keep in mind that Romulus Community Schools is not using Illuminate’s student information system. Nevertheless, they are importing attendance data into Illuminate and leveraging Illuminate’s robust and flexible DnA platform for powerful reporting. The more data your district gets into the Illuminate system, the more powerful it will be. You don’t need to be using Illuminate’s SIS to create robust reports using attendance and behavior data from your SIS.
If you’re looking for potent ways to leverage all that data that your school district collects, Illuminate ‘s BI Tool Blog is a great place to start. Illuminate’s BI Tool community is growing and thriving, and it’s inspiring to watch educators from across the nation share ideas, collaborate, and find new and creative ways to help educators, students, and parents make informed, data-driven decisions.
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Director of Business Intelligence Services
A Report for the Refrigerator: Attendance Update Parent Report
By: Scott Johnston-Roark, District Data Coach at Romulus Community Schools
If your district is even somewhat like mine, you know that improving absenteeism is a paramount challenge. For some students, poor attendance is a behavior that develops in the elementary years and progressively worsens with little or no intervention. For other students, absenteeism is an acute phenomenon brought on by underlying factors that cause disengagement from school. In any case, the actions to remedy absenteeism is most likely reactive and too late. What’s even more frustrating with absenteeism is that often the cause of absenteeism is out of the school’s control–rather, it’s in the parent’s control.
I am the District Data Coach for Romulus Community Schools in Romulus, MI. I have held this position for eight years; however, I started my career at Romulus as an English language arts teacher back in 1999. My primary responsibility is to work with teachers and administrators in analyzing data and making sound decisions to support student achievement.
Four years ago, my middle school principal, Jason Salhaney, came to me with a set of questions regarding absenteeism. How do we do a better job of tracking truancy and how do we document the individual interventions implemented to improve attendance? We use a Google Sheet student list with attendance counts uploaded from our SIS and columns to archive the actions and interventions used to change attendance behavior. Multiple district personnel are involved in the tracking and documenting of student attendance from teachers and secretaries collecting absent notes and notifying parents of initial attendance concerns, Title I specialists and guidance counselors developing positive attendance incentives, and principals and the social worker meeting with parents to address truancy issues. With a super team effort to address truancy, we still believed we were not doing our best to help students, along with their parents, avoid truancy.
The issue we identified as a missing component to address truancy was being proactive about communicating absences to parents well before the behavior escalated to unacceptable levels. To take a proactive approach to monitoring attendance and keeping parents informed, I created a BI Tool report titled “Attendance Update Parent Report.” The idea and metrics of the report were inspired by an AttendanceWorks.org webinar. The report is designed to give parents attendance information in a quick and simple read while using color and graphics to make a more impactful visual statement. The report plainly states a student’s total absent count which includes excused, unexcused, and suspension absences. I also include a performance indicator so that the parent connects the impact of absences to academics. A horizontal bar graph demonstrates the student’s level of absenteeism and how close the student is to moving into another category. Finally, I list several suggestions from the AttendanceWork.org website that parents can use to help their child develop good attendance habits.
The data that I use to create the report comes from the district’s SIS along with data that is migrated to DnA from the SIS. I download attendance data weekly from the SIS to manipulate it and then upload it to DnA for the attendance custom report. DnA does a nightly attendance pull from the SIS, but it records the attendance by periods, and I need an average days missed for my report. The challenge with this is that I cannot do a calculation in the custom report because my elementary schools have different reporting periods than my middle school and high school. What is more, a formula in JasperSoft to calculate the attendance would be too complicated because of special enrollment circumstances. So, I opt to do the calculation in my spreadsheet and then upload the data to my summary assessment. The data that I use from DnA is more of the demographic data such as the student name in various forms and school to personalize the report.
Some of the more powerful pieces of the report are the color-coded performance label and the bar graph. Both of these parts stretched my learning of the BI tool, but were very necessary parts of the report. The performance label block uses style formatting to display the color-coding. It’s a bold visual to immediately direct the parent’s attention to the child’s attendance performance. To incorporate the bar graph in the report, I needed the assistance of Franck Reyherme as I was not familiar enough with JasperSoft to create the type of chart I envisioned.
The concept of the graph is based on the On-Track Student Details report. The graph’s cut points are specifically color-coded to show the parent where the student falls on the truancy spectrum. The number line provides eye-opening, comparative data when the attendance count is unsatisfactory. Likewise, the pointer calls the parent’s attention to the attendance performance and how close the student is to declining into another band. Franck was instrumental in including the pointer icon into the graph along with the color bands. Without these attributes, I believe the graph would be less impactful and not display the urgency for parents to address truancy with their child.
According to AttendaceWorks.org, many parents and students do not realize how quickly a child’s attendance can add up to a level of academic concern. The purpose of this report is to be proactive and keep parents informed about their child’s attendance before it reaches a critical level. The district’s schools send home the report at various times throughout the school year. It is important to get the report home after the first 30 days of school when attendance for the majority of students is satisfactory. The report also goes home quarterly and when teachers believe individual parents need to be notified of a student’s attendance. The report serves as a parental tool to visualize attendance patterns, to describe the impact of increasing absenteeism, and to provide solutions to correct poor attendance. Moreover, this is also a tool to celebrate satisfactory attendance and encourage students to continue to be present at school every day.
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