National Heritage Academies is one of the nation's leading charter school management organizations serving more than 38,000 students with 61 school sites in six states.
At the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year NHA officials targeted several areas for improvement - attendance reporting and notification was a high priority due to impact on student achievement. Of particular importance and concern was the number of unexcused absences being recorded at the organization's schools in Ohio.
In the past, each NHA school site received an automatic daily list of all students with unexcused absences. These lists were given to the school's administrative office assistant, who spent the better part of each day trying to contact parents, with many unsuccessful attempts remaining at day's end.
NHA administrators decided to test the EZ Attendance feature offered by SchoolReach in their 10 Ohio schools. "Knowing where every student is at every minute is extremely important to us," said John Perna, Student Information System Programs Manager for NHA. "The SchoolReach system provided a way for us to quickly let a parent know that a student was not in school for the day and to help uncover the reason why."
The first step NHA took was to configure their central student record systems to send two unexcused absence files to the EZ Attendance program each day: One at 10 AM, the other at 6 PM. The files triggered a message automatically sent to the home, office and mobile phones of each absent student, informing parents of their child's absence.
Should a parent call the school following receipt of the 10 AM message, the administrative assistant would update the SIS system and that family would then be dropped from the 6 PM calling cycle.
"To say the results have been dramatic is an understatement," said Perna. "Our unexcused attendance numbers have dropped by over 50 percent. Equally important is how this notification tool has helped our staff. Instead of being mired down in making an excessive amount of calls to parents, their time is now directed toward helping our students to excel."
Perna noted that parents in the Ohio schools have responded positively to the attendance calls coming from their child's schools, too. "Often a parent will contact the school with a message that says something like, 'Thank you for reaching out to me. I have been so busy I forgot to call the school.' By improving communications, our schools are able to establish long-lasting relationships with parents that reinforce the schools' dedication and mission to drive student success."