Washougal, WA – Hathaway Elementary staff, parents and students are working together to increase understanding and commitment to the importance of school attendance through the Strive for Five program.

“Striving for five means working to limit absences to no more than five per year,” said Hathaway Principal Sarika Mosley. “Research shows that, starting in kindergarten, missing too much school can cause children to fall behind in learning.”

The percentage of students to meet Hathaway’s Strive for Five goal in September was 96%. The overall numbers for the month of October was 95%. “Currently, year-to-date numbers are 92% which is lower than we want and lower than our year end percentage of 93% in 2016-2017 school year,” Mosley reported. Hathaway staff are working to boost the conversation about attendance with parents and used the recent parent-teacher conferences to help communicate the importance of daily attendance.

According to Mosley, parent response has been very positive. “They want to be partners in their children’s education and help make decisions to support their learning.”

The Hathaway attendance team, which consists of Mosley, School Secretary Tracey Carroll, Family Resource Manager Nancy Boon, and School Social Worker Jenna Linerud, meets regularly to discuss attendance issues. “This group keeps an eye on our percentages and then drills down to the student level and works to consider individual needs,” Mosley said.

A reader board at Hathaway’s main entrance, maintained by Carroll, also keeps the issue visible and informs parents and students of attendance statistics. “Tracey is such an important part of this program,” said Mosley. “She is the one the front line, talking to parents to help problem-solve, connecting with kids and updating our reader board.”

The Hathaway teaching staff is committed and involved in the process as well. “We met in August to discuss what we plan to do for attendance and set building-wide goals,” Mosley explained. “We came up with friendly classroom competitions and ways for students to earn ‘Paws itive’ awards, our school positive behavior reward system.” Mosley surprises students with monthly “pop ins” to recognize and celebrate perfect classroom attendance.

“Staff members also put together a bicycle reward competition,” Mosley said. Thanks to support of seven local business, three bikes will be given to lucky students who demonstrate good attendance practices. Winners will be drawn from three groups of students: Those with fewer than five absences, those with improved attendance from previous years and those with perfect attendance. “We are looking for a way to reward all of the students who achieve the perfect attendance goal,” Mosley said.

Another fun way to keep the idea of attendance in the minds of students is a song that new Hathaway music teacher, Becky Miller, created. Sung to the tune of “The Addams Family,” the words reinforce the importance of not missing school and is performed at monthly Top Dog award assemblies.