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Making Every Day Count: CIS Attendance Initiatives Motivate Students

By Communities In Schools | April 16, 2024 Chronic Absenteeism Family Engagement Schoolwide Impact

Like many rural communities across our country, residents of Republic, Washington, face many challenges due to its limited resources. This, coupled with limited transportation options, makes access to essential resources a significant challenge for families. Finding basic necessities like medical care, especially mental health resources, is significantly more difficult due to the community's remote location. 

Communities In Schools® (CIS®) of Rural Eastern Washington currently works directly in four local school districts, all of which are remote communities tackling educational challenges, including those in the Republic School District. 

The Republic School District, a small K-12 campus with 435 students, faces an attendance challenge. While approximately 70 percent of students meet their monthly attendance goal, the remaining 30 percent fall into chronic absenteeism, missing 10 percent or more of school days.  

According to the most recent federal data, during the 2020–21 school year, chronic absence almost doubled from more than 8 million students to 14.7 million students nationwide. Chronic absence means missing 10 percent or more of school days due to absence for any reason. If left unaddressed, chronic absenteeism can result in students having difficulty reading, progressing in middle school, and even interference with high school graduation.  

In many cases, chronic absence goes unnoticed because schools are counting how many students show up every day rather than examining how many and which students miss so much school that they are falling behind. (Source: Attendance Works

CIS of Rural Eastern Washington prioritized attendance in their Tier 1 School Support Plan. CIS Site Coordinator Shannon Young implemented a proactive strategy to address the issue, including school-wide services and resources available to all students.  

To encourage attendance, CIS organized a monthly class competition where classes achieving 90 percent attendance rates or higher for a given month would win rewards. Right away, the program was successful, resulting in classrooms reaching their attendance goals.

In October, all classes from first grade through sixth grade achieved 90 percent or higher, earning them an ice cream social. In December, the bar was raised with a requirement of 91 percent or higher per class, and once again, all classes met the goal, earning a hot cocoa social.  

The school received tons of positive feedback from parents. Students are excited to attend school so they can be in the attendance class of the month. In fact, they hold their parents accountable to make sure they get them to school on time.  

-Shannon Young, Site Coordinator, CIS of Rural Eastern Washington  

As the school year progresses, the class with the highest average attendance will be awarded a roller-skating party with pizza at the end of the year. This initiative not only addresses attendance issues but also fosters a sense of community and achievement among the students. 

“I see a site coordinator making a significant impact in many areas. Site coordinators have improved school achievement in a lot of areas, not just academics, but students can come to get the support that they need to continue moving ahead,” says Amy Sharbono, Elementary Secretary and Registrar, Republic School District. “Our CIS site coordinator, Shannon, is really good at having a soft place to land for kids to get them adjusted for the day before they go to class, and that is very beneficial.”  

Beyond the attendance program, Shannon and her team at Republic, have led other initiatives that foster engagement, accountability, and commitment to academics for the K-8 students at Republic School District. Students participate in monthly birthday celebrations, Tiger Pride Fridays and the Girls Empowerment Club.   

Parents and families are encouraged to get involved during the school’s quarterly “I Make A Difference” assemblies. These events are designed to honor students who embody the qualities that represent school culture. Teachers nominate students who are excelling in personal responsibility, positive attitude, kindness, and a commitment to academics.  

Shannon and the CIS team at Republic have created an environment that connects families to the resources they need. In this rural community, CIS is bridging connections so that students can focus on thriving in school.  


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