Why Students Are Being Rewarded To Attend School

What would it take to get a flawless attendance record from your kid?

Baseball tickets? Gift cards? A necklace? How about an automated wake-up call from former NBA-great Magic Johnson?

A handful of schools in New York City are actually doing all of those to help increase school attendance through politicians and administrators collaboration, according to an article in the New York Times.

And it’s working. On any given day one out 15 elementary students is absent in NYC public schools, compared to one out of 13 in 2007 and one out of nine in 1995.

Other NYC schools have taken larger strides to increase attendance. The Center for New York City Affairs at the New School recently released a study indicating that attendance increased significantly for the 2009-2010 school year.

It found that there were 105 elementary schools where 30 percent or more of students missed at least one month of class, a decrease from 216 in the 2006-2007 school year.

But, most schools still have an attendance problem. During the 2009-2010 schools year one in five students missed at least a month’s worth of school at 42 percent of New York’s 700 elementary schools, according to the New School study. That figure actually marks a decrease from the 2005-2006 school year of 58 percent of schools having one in five students miss at least a month of school.

In 2009, the Education Department began to track student absenteeism, kicking off the trend of increasing student attendance. The Education Department defined chronic absenteeism as missing 20 or more school days in a year. It also encouraged schools to monitor attendance more closely.

However, some students have safety concerns, transportation issues or health issues like asthma that are causing chronic absenteeism. But, many cases are caused by apathetic parents and students.

Schools are now growing more concerned with chronic absenteeism as studies show that it correlates with future drop out rates and low test scores. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity followed 64,000 New York City students through their third and fourth grades in 2006-2008 and found that state test scores improved when attendance did.

The absentee numbers and effects are out there, and now it’s up to schools to motivate students and improve attendance. Most schools are using rewards and incentives systems to improve attendance like throwing pizza parties for students with perfect attendance.

Schools are externally rewarding students to show up; however, many students still have no internal motivation to get up and go to school – a longstanding, reoccurring problem.

Sometimes, students only show up to get the pizza parties, baseball tickets or gift cards – all extrinsic motivators. They have no internal reason for being there and therefore no internal desire to achieve. However, if schools can create genuine interest, then students will be more likely to try harder.