“Texting Paid Off!” is the subject of the email I just received from George Middle School (GMS) Principal Beth Madison. Beth and her staff hired me late last year to help them design and implement a social networking /social media strategy in her 93% free and reduced, Title I school in Portland, Oregon . One of the areas targeted for improvement with social tools as part of that strategy was daily attendance.
Under the now famous “No Child Left Behind” program, certain schools were required to implement strategies to meet “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP). For as long as the AYP requirement has been in place, GMS has not been able to meet the goal. Let’s face it, education starts with getting students to class and getting them to school has been a challenge at GMS for a very long time.
The strategy around improving attendance via social networking was simple. GMS already had the necessary social tools that were implemented earlier in the year as part of the strategy we devised to use social networking to improve academic achievement. All that needed to happen was to identify the chronic offenders and hook them up to our “texting team”. This staff team has been trained to use online tools to simplify texting in groups. The students’ numbers are set into a group and a general text, “Time to wake up!” could be sent to an entire group. Individual texts can also be sent to those who need a private message.
In addition to identifying the truant students, we did some analysis around the routes to school, travel time, and the impediments along the way. We identified a “mini-mart” where students were tarrying and getting “derailed” on their way to school. So we created a messaging schedule for the moderators that would:
• Get students out of bed on time
• Move them forward from the impediments
• Get them to the attendance check in station inside the school
The procedures went into place in February 2010. The total student days missed per week by the chronic attendance offenders decreased by 35% as a result. Students attended more days and missed fewer hours of classroom time. They were in their classrooms, ready to learn.
In simple terms, we put the school bell into their cell phones and hence, into their pockets! And as a result, GMS made their AYP for the first time since it became a requirement!
There have been a lot of blog posts and news articles focused on the appropriateness of students having cell phones at school. Cell phones represent a communication channel from the school directly to the students. More importantly it is a parent-sponsored channel that if used creatively and moderated with proper guidelines, can be a very effective tool to help students stay engaged with the school and the true mission…education!
I’d like to thank Beth, Liz, Morgan, Tanya, Jamie, Amy and the rest of the GMS staff for the vision and the courage to try something new to benefit their students. Their community is extremely lucky to have them. Texting did pay off…because of all of you. Well done!