Attendance is to school what rebounding is to basketball!


Author’s Note: September is Attendance Awareness Month

Attendance is to school what rebounding is to basketball—it is hard work, requires effort and persistence, and it often goes unrewarded and unrecognized, but schools cannot be successful without it. Improving school attendance is a matter of will. It requires a multi-pronged effort over several years to break the culturally supported cycle. Even the best schools have a significant number of students who are chronically absent.

Good school attendance, particularly in high-needs schools is more about attracting students than about promoting attendance. While having the right attendance laws and procedures in place are important in the short-run. In the long-run, a school must create a safe, orderly, and student-centered school culture that attracted students.

  • Our school had to become a place where students felt wanted and where they wanted to be.
  • We had to be a school in which every student expected to succeed every day.
  • We had to be the kind of school in which each and every student was both known and valued.
  • We had to be the kind of school that students wanted to attend and hated to leave.
  • We had to be a school that had to work to get students to leave the building at the end of the day, not one that had to work to get students to attend.

To be that school, we had to provide a safe, clean, orderly, warm and inviting school environment built on quality relationships. In addition, we had to create a culture of success in which students came to school expecting to succeed while knowing that their teachers would not stand bye and allow them to fail.

We learned from experience that when kids miss school they miss out, and when kids miss out, we all suffer. In our school, attendance, along with school wide literacy, was a priority. We served large numbers of under-resourced students who needed extra support and encouragement in order to attend school on a regular basis.

USA Today reports that research suggests that as many as 7.5 million students miss a month of school each year, raising the likelihood that they’ll fail academically and eventually

Preferred Activity Time (PAT) Bank of Strategies for Teachers

What if we could build willpower and self-control in our students? As Roy Baumeister discusses in Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, one strategy to use in building willpower and self-control is to provide students with options, choices, or in this case contingencies also referred to as if x then y options.

  • If I run two miles then I can do ___ later today.
  • If I diet all week, then I can have one “cheat day.” 

Teachers can build willpower and self-control by using Preferred Activity Time (PAT) or contingencies with students. If we finish this activity, then we can do ____.

They key point is that the students are always learning. This is not about games for the sake of games. Learning is fun!

Our teachers got a lot of mileage from Learn Star, which uses a direct response system which allows students to answer teacher-designed or a predesigned set of questions. Our hardest to reach students loved PAT.

This is a link to the Tools for Teaching PAT Bank, which features an ever growing bank of games and activities to be used in Responsibility Training’s Preferred Activity Time (PAT). 

Any lesson/curriculum can quickly become a PAT by making it a team game. In addition to the activities below, any game show format used on TV will work.

Teachers commonly use Jeopardy, Family Feud, Twenty-One, Concentration, What’s My Line?, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, To Tell the Truth, and College Bowl. Also, see our PAT Tips page for some more ways to use PATs.

“Our sixth graders favorite PAT is jeopardy played with their world history vocabulary words. They complained when their PAT time was postponed because of a field trip! ‘Can’t we take the field trip another day, today is PAT time.'”

- Lynn Layman of Greathouse Elementary, Midland, TX


What New York can teach us about implementation of the Common Core

New York has become the poster child for poor implementation of the Common Core State Standards. A Race-to-the-Top state, New York officials bragged several years ago about how they were ready for the new standards.

The state could not wait for PARCC to develop an assessment system. So, New York developed it’s own “Common Core-Aligned” set of state tests and tied the results to teacher evaluations and to graduation requirements. Common sense dictates that new, higher standards, new, more rigorous assessments coupled with a short window for implementation would result in lower scores on the tests. But as Will Rogers once said, “Common sense ain’t so common.”

The train wreck occurred when officials, knowing that scores would drop, tied those scores (fifty percent) to teacher evaluations and graduation requirements. This initially outraged teachers who saw the handwriting on the wall. After all, if you have been in education for more than a few years, you are all too familiar with botched implementations. Next came parent outrage because their students were failing the required state tests in huge numbers and they would not graduate.

If one wished to devise a plan to sabotage the Common Core State Standards, this plan was virtually foolproof.

As early as three years ago, New York principals, with tears in their eyes pleaded that tying the expected falling test scores to teacher evaluations was eroding the trust they had worked so hard to build and was destroying the culture of their schools. Their pleas went unnoticed–Ready, Fire, Aim.

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards is a necessary, but ‘monumental undertaking.’ Changing the way teachers teach and how students are assessed, moving the target from high school completion to college and career-readiness, integrating literacy into all content areas, changing teacher evaluation systems, changing state accountability systems are individually multi-year undertakings. Together these and other local and state initiatives–all occurring simultaneously–represent the “perfect storm” for public education–a storm with no end in sight.


Higher standards, more challenging tests mean lower test scores

Another state, Mississippi, experiences an expected dip in test scores as schools transition to new college- and career-ready standards.


Test scores will predictably drop in every state except MA, which already had rigorous standards–and a select few other states.

  1. The target–college and career ready instead of high school graduation–is much more challenging. The measure has changed, and, therefore, the scores are not comparable.
  2. New standards mean a change in instruction, which will take years to achieve. No one really knows how long it will take to build teacher capacity and revamp new teacher preparation programs.
  3. The assessments are new, which will normally cause a temporary dip in test scores until students and teachers acclimate themselves to the online, constructed response format.
  4. The real improvement process will not begin until teachers get meaningful feedback from the assessments, which is a year or more away.

Who should decide what is taught in schools? – Poll

A pair of wide-ranging polls by PDK/Gallup and Education Next gauge sentiment on the common standards, testing, school funding, and other hot-button issues.


Overwhelming support for local control.

100 Search Engines For Academic Research

100 Search Engines For Academic Research


“It’s the third week of school and we haven’t learned anything.”

Hundreds of students walked out of class at Jefferson High School on Monday morning, holding a sit-in to protest a host of issues at the South Los Angeles campus — among them a scheduling snafu that has extended into the third week of school.


Teacher Evaluation: Are “principals reluctant to issue low ratings?”

Education Week reports on the continuing trend in teacher ratings across the country. Both Hawaii and Delaware data show an overwhelming majority of teachers meeting standards. “As in many other states, among them Michigan, Florida, and Indiana, only a small fraction of teachers are getting low ratings.”

Questions posed by the author”

  1. To what extent is the evaluation process shaped by the norms at work in each school?
  2. In other words, are principals reluctant to issue low ratings because of the likelihood that it could affect morale and working relationships”
  3. Does the shortage of teachers in fields like special education impact the ratings?


New, higher college and career-ready standards have significantly raised expectations regarding what all students should know and be able to do. Heightened expectations for student achievement raises the bar for teachers. Principals in the know understand that we must build the capacity of teachers to deliver these new standards. For example, few secondary teachers have been trained to effectively integrate literacy–purposeful reading, writing, and discussion–into their content areas. Yet, under the new standards, literacy is a “shared responsibility” across all content areas.

It is unethical to rate teachers on skills that we know they don’t have…yet. Until the new standards and expectations are firmly entrenched in the culture of schools, principals must be builders of capacity, not inspectors of processes.

New York’s Implementation of Common Core “Fails Kids”

‘Why would policymakers create tests that are designed to mark as failures two out of every three children?” ….and tie the expected falling scores to teacher evaluations and graduation requirements.


Let’s be clear. This article describes New York’s choice of how to implement the Common Core. The approach New York has taken ties more rigorous tests and expected drop in scores to both graduation requirements and teacher evaluations. Instead of being an example, New York represents a warning to all states.

This has happened in non-Common Core states like Virginia!

Teachers are getting more Common Core training, but on 1/4 say students are prepared


According to Catherine Gewertz at Education Week, “teachers are getting an increasing amount of training to prepare for the common core, but that doesn’t always make them feel ready to teach the standards.


According to the article, a recently released study, “From Adoption to Practice: Teacher Perspectives on the Common Core,” shows that while far more teachers are attending common-core training, they are giving those sessions low marks for quality.

  • Professional Development and Training. In last year’s report, 71 percent of teachers said they had attended professional development or training for the common core. This year, that figure rose to 87 percent.
  • Teachers were far more critical of their training sessions in 2013 than they were in 2012, however. Two-thirds felt they were of high quality in 2012, but barely half said so in 2013.
  • Only 23 percent reported that the assessments had been a topic of professional development.
  • Far more common is training on the English/language arts standards; training on the math standards runs a distant second.
  • Their sense of preparedness, ranked on a scale from 1 (“not at all prepared”) to 5 (“very prepared”), was about the same in this year’s report as it was the previous year: just under half gave themselves 4s or 5s on that preparedness scale.
  • Only one-quarter said in this year’s report that their students were well prepared to master the standards, and 14 percent said their students were well prepared for the tests.
  • Teachers are unhappy with the lack of alignment between their instructional materials and the common core, a situation that’s stubbornly unchanged from the year before. Nearly six in 10 said their main curricular materials were not aligned to the new standards.
  • Teachers are pretty cynical about publishers’ claims that their materials are “common-core-aligned.” Fewer than four in 10 said they’d trust curriculum providers’ claims of alignment.
  • Only 18 percent classified themselves as “very familiar” with the math standards in the fall of 2012, but that number rose to 31 percent in the fall 2013 survey.


Why was there “far more training on the English/language arts standards; training on the math standards runs a distant second?”


Literacy is now a “shared responsibility” across all content areas. This means that all secondary teachers are expected to integrate purposeful reading, writing, and discussion of complex text into their lessons. In reality, few teachers have received the training or support to carry out this formidable task, which will take several years of focused practice to reach an acceptable level of proficiency.

Although elementary teachers are much better prepared to teach literacy skills, they must increase the amount of informational text and do more argumentative/persuasive writing, which are significant changes.

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