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Combating attrition and low attendance
Low student attendance and attrition in SES programs are major concerns of districts and providers alike. While it is clear there is no easy means to guarantee student participation in SES, there are a number of steps that districts can take to make improvements in this area. The ideas discussed above regarding managing SES at the school level (see p. 31), providing transportation (see p. 34), and using data management systems (see above) can all make important contributions to the effort to ensure students remain in SES programs. Also, the ideas discussed below regarding districts and providers working together (see p. 38), while mainly general in scope, should also apply in the specific context of student attendance. Following are some additional ideas for districts to consider to foster attendance in SES.
Getting parents involved. Parents obviously have interest in and responsibility for their children's attendance in SES programs, and districts should enlist the support of parents in making sure students are present to receive services. Together with parent organizations and community groups, districts and providers could, for instance, develop a corps of volunteer parents to serve as attendance monitors for SES programs at schools and other locations in the community.
Serving high school students. As many high school students are confronted with numerous out-of-school activities and responsibilities, including part-time jobs, caring for siblings, and other obligations, providing SES to these students presents distinct challenges and requires particular commitment and creativity. To ensure these students are served, districts, together with schools, could structure out-of-school programming in such a way that SES is not a competitor with other offerings. To further increase participation of eligible high school students in SES, districts, together with providers, could consider developing special incentives to enhance these students' enrollment and attendance. Following are some additional ideas that districts have pursued in reaching out to and providing SES to high school students.
Outreach at the high school level: Special considerations. Districts often engage in special or additional outreach activities and strategies in order to reach high school students eligible for SES. For instance, districts advertise SES during high school sporting events, such as football games, as eligible students and their families are likely to attend these events together. Together with schools, districts also work to ensure that SES is discussed during student-teacher or student-counselor advisory sessions so that eligible students can hear firsthand from their advisers about the potential benefits of SES. Also, as high school students may tend to feel a stigma attached to receiving tutoring, some districts have referred to SES by another name, such as "enrichment," when reaching out to these students.
Coordinating with schools. As noted above, providing SES to high school students requires a particular commitment, and perhaps nowhere is this more needed than in the individual schools where students are eligible for SES. Districts should work particularly closely with high school principals, counselors, and teachers as their support and engagement are crucial to successful SES programs. To this end, some districts hold regular meetings with high school staffs to discuss SES, both prior to and during the provision of services, and have also facilitated meetings between providers and high school principals to foster partnerships. Districts have also taken special care to discuss SES with sports coaches and instructors in other afterschool activities such as music so that they can encourage students to participate and can arrange practices and activities in such a way that they do not prevent students from receiving services.
Coordinating with providers. As high school students often have a variety of competing demands on their time, districts have also worked with the providers approved to serve their area to make SES more feasible and attractive to high school students. Rather than compete with other afterschool options, districts have opted to work closely with providers that offer programs in the morning, on weekends, or during the summer. To serve this population of students, some districts have also worked closely with providers approved to offer services online or in the home as these providers' programs can be flexible and adjust to students' busy schedules.
Coordinating with employers. Districts have also sought to inform prominent employers of high school students about SES and, together with parents and providers, have worked to coordinate students' employment schedules so as to allow them to receive services.