Mansfield, OH (October 18, 2021) – This school year, the number of students who have been absent and missed out on significant amounts of learning is alarming and unprecedented. Making sure students don’t fall further behind this year requires ensuring they can access instruction even if they must stay home due to illness, quarantine or even a natural disaster. September was Attendance Awareness Month, and GOAL Digital Academy honed in on ideas to improve student attendance.
To enhance the ability of staff to develop relationships with GOAL students, two new programs were instituted. These two process improvements increased the reporting of attendance hours by our students by over 1,000 hours a week.
First, each staff member was assigned a caseload of students to mentor. Mentors make weekly contact with students and serve as first responders when students are struggling. They monitor attendance and academic progress and alert Educational Advocates when problems arise. Our students and staff have shared many positive stories about how mentoring has impacted a student positively and helped staff to feel more connected to our students. One teacher said, "As a mentor and a teacher, the mentoring program allows me to focus on a smaller group of kids to give them the one-on-one time they need to be successful in an online environment. Constant contact with my mentees and their guardians provides them with attendance support and tracking, grade overviews, tutoring, technology support, and that extra connection with a GOAL employee."
Secondly, we instituted a live teaching expectation. Students are more engaged when they have relationships with their teachers. Especially during COVID, our teachers wanted to make sure students were safe and healthy, and live teaching allowed them to see their students and provide a connection to the outside world. Our teachers are now required to host at least one live lesson per week in all their classes. The high attendance rates at these live learning sessions is showing us that this effort is having an impact. Not only can our teachers develop stronger relationships with students, but they can also better understand some of the barriers they face and address problems with empathy and flexibility.