harvard and clermont northeastern

Clermont Northeastern Partners with Harvard to Increase School Attendance 

By Dick Maloney

As it begins an ambitious program to increase and improve student attendance, Clermont Northeastern School District has had to answer the most basic question – when is a student actually in school?

The answer is more complicated than it was eight months ago. 

CNE is one of 47 “rural” districts, mainly from Ohio and New York, to participate in the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks, an initiative of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. Katie Kieninger, the Ohio State Network Manager for the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks at Harvard, said Ohio has one of the highest populations of rural students in the country. 

NCRERN intervention at CNE was scheduled to begin Oct. 19, the first day of the second quarter in the district. students, chosen by NCRERN,  will include students who missed more than seven-and-a-half days of school before remote learning began.  The goal is to determine which strategies work to improve student attendance, which is more than calling rolls in the morning. 

Students at CNE returned to school in late August with a five-day in-person schedule, and a remote option. The state uses the term “synchronous learning” to refer to students who are logged on with a teacher in a “live” session.  Those students are counted as present, even if they don’t do assigned work.

“Also in our district, we have a hybrid model, we also have to use the first layer of attendance which is the live in-person session, then also look into the attendance further and say on the days they did not log into the live session did they complete the offline work.” Dorsey said.

According to the district’s state report card at reportcard.education.ohio.gov, CNE had an attendance rate of 95.1 percent for the 2019-2020 school year. Dorsey said CNE wants data to identify students who may not be habitually absent, or truant, but miss enough school that it becomes a concern. The concern is attendance is directly related to achievement.  It doesn’t take long for between seven and 10 days to add up to an entire school year. If you miss 10 days a year, by the time you’re a graduate you will have missed almost an entire school year,” he said.

Dorsey said engagement with students’ families is also crucial, and is one reason the district is implementing the program across all three campuses – the high school, middle school and elementary school. CNE will use an app called Kinvolved, which ties into attendance software and allows for targeted, specific messages about missed hours of instruction, as well as tips to help improve attendance.

“So our goal is  really to help families, one, learn about how detrimental the lack of attendance is, but also give them the tools or information or resources to get them here every single day, because that’s what we really want to see,” Dorsey said. “If students aren’t here receiving high quality instruction, they’re really missing out, especially as the instruction that we’re giving kids is cutting edge and topnotch, having people here everyday is what’s going to help us become a destination district in the future for families.”

Meri Johnson, a curriculum consultant with Curriculum Engineers, as well as CNE Superintendent Michael Brandt and district psychologists Kate Schaefer and Amy Ellis, are part of the team. The project ties in well with the comprehensive literacy grants the district received from the state earlier this year, Dorsey said.

The NCRERN grant goes through January 2024. Pilot programs will be run the fall semester of 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, and the initiative allows flexibility. If officials decide a certain strategy is not having the required results, they will know quickly and can move to the next intervention.

More about the program, according to a NCRERN release:

Funding: The Institute of Education Sciences is awarding $10 million to support the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN); the cost is being shared by IES (91 percent) and the Center of Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University and its partners, New York and Ohio (9 percent).

About NCRERN leadership: Thomas J. Kane is an economist and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR). Douglas O. Staiger is the John French Professor in Economics at Dartmouth College. Christopher Avery is the Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Bi Vuong, Proving Ground director (CEPR), will act as interim director of the Center.

About the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University: The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University seeks to transform education through quality research and evidence. CEPR and its partners believe all students will learn and thrive when education leaders make decisions using facts and findings, rather than untested assumptions. Learn more at cepr.harvard.edu.

About Proving Ground: Proving Ground, a CEPR initiative, works to make evidence-gathering and evidence-use an intuitive part of how education agencies conduct their daily work. Proving Ground utilizes a continuous improvement framework to help agencies rapidly identify and test solutions to specific challenges. Learn more at provingground.cepr.harvard.edu

About the Institute of Education Sciences: The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent and non-partisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Their mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public. Learn more at ies.ed.gov