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CIS of Eastern Pennsylvania Launches Attendance Program at Union Terrace Elementary

By Communities In Schools | March 21, 2023 Attendance

To incentivize better attendance rates, Communities In Schools® (CIS®) of Eastern Pennsylvania site coordinators Magan DePrefontaine and Heather Annunziata collaborated on an awards-based attendance program called the Attendance Fairy program. Taking inspiration from similar models already in action at other district schools, Magan and Heather launched the program at Union Terrace Elementary School in October 2022.

School attendance is critical in developing a student's academic, social, and emotional skills. But for some students residing within the Allentown School District, achieving high attendance is an ongoing battle for various reasons. Lack of accessible transportation, poor weather conditions, or lack of guardian engagement can render a student chronically absent. 

While some schools’ attendance programs shoot for monthly or yearly goals, Magan and Heather decided to focus on daily attendance after noting that programs with larger goals show more minor changes in attendance rates. With a more extensive monthly or yearly goal of consistent attendance, students tend to give up after missing even a single day, feeling like they’ve already failed. A day-by-day model is more digestible for students struggling to attend school.

If they miss one or two days, they think, ‘Oh, I’ll just throw in the towel.’ Creating smaller, more achievable goals for them has proven to be more successful in improving overall attendance. 

– Heather Annunziata, CIS Site Coordinator

The Attendance Fairy program involves school personnel who drop into random classrooms daily to reward students who’ve made it to school with treats, stickers, or other small rewards. Classes visited by the Attendance Fairy that have full attendance also receive a flyer to post in their classroom to show their achievement. Both a reward and the school-wide acknowledgment of a student’s presence in school help those with a tendency to be absent to feel “seen” in the classroom. These small acts support the importance of daily attendance while emphasizing academics and a student’s individuality as a member of the school community. 

Since launching the Attendance Fairy program, Union Terrace Elementary School’s attendance has already increased by nearly 3%. Of course, getting students to attend class is a crucial focus of the program, but that’s just the beginning. 

The Attendance Fairy program is focused on getting to school every day, but it also has behavioral, academic, and school success rolled up into it. The more the kids are here, the less we see negative behavioral interactions. They know what their schedule is, what’s going on in class, and can dig deeper into other aspects of their academics, so the confidence and community connection made by being present in class supports the importance of coming to school each day.

– Magan DePrefontaine, CIS Site Coordinator

Heather and her high school students support the program each month by assembling the treat bags and visiting Union Terrace Elementary to demonstrate to the younger students the importance of coming to class. Giving back is one of Heather's main focuses for her students. She says that assisting with the Attendance Fairy program has given her students a sense of pride because they’re serving as an example for the elementary students. 

Given the program's early success, Magan and Heather plan to continue the Attendance Fairy program throughout the rest of the 2023 school year and beyond. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating their hard work! Thank you, Magan and Heather, for being #AllinforKids attendance!


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