Detroit Public Schools launched multiple exciting initiatives to emphasize the value of continual attendance on Count Day—and every day following—including the official start of its take-home Netbook program.
As part of the district’s Count Day incentives, several schools began distributing Netbooks, which are small laptop computers, to students in grades 8-12 today.
Distribution will continue each week throughout the month of October until roughly 19,000 Netbooks are distributed, providing students access to technology outside of the classroom.
In January 2011, roughly 40,000 ASUS Netbook laptop computers— 5,000 for teachers and 35,000 for students—were purchased through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), as part of the federal economic stimulus package. The first phase of the Netbook program, which included the delivery of 21,600 computers, began in January 2011 and continued into February 2011.
In January 2012, Roy Roberts, Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools, announced the take-home Netboook program for all students in grades 8-12 and continued in-school access for students in grades 6 and up.
“The students who received take-home Netbooks today have had use of these same Netbooks for over a year. The only difference now is they will have access to the Netbooks for 24 hours a day, instead of 6.5 hours during the school day, allowing them to keep learning past the normal school day if they desire,” Roberts said.
Count Day was specifically selected to kick-off the take-home Netbook initiative to remind parents and students of the day’s significance. Attendance on Count Day is extremely important as each student translates into state funding.
“Count Day is indeed important. However, for DPS, it has been critically important that our attendance drive begins the very first day of school, and every day throughout the school year,” Roberts said. “There are many factors why attendance is important including financial, legal, and state reporting requirements. But the reason we’re most focused on getting children in school and making sure they are here every day is educational. For all of the efforts we’ve made to ensure that classroom instruction, technology and the most highly qualified teachers are in place, we’d be foolish to not work, with all of our might, to make sure that students receive a full day’s instruction, each and every day.”
The district’s new attendance theme: “First Day. Every Day. All Day.” has been proven successful with early attendance data exceeding previous years’ attendance rates. By the second day of the school year, the attendance rate had reached 85%, and that number increased to 90% by the start of the third week of school.
To date, the district has recorded more than 51,000 students, which is several hundred students above the anticipated enrollment amount for the 2012-2013 academic year. The adopted fiscal year 2012-13 budget is based on a fall term enrollment of 49,852.
Internet service, safe usage with Gaggle
The take-home Netbook program, along with an Individualized Learning Plan for every student and an Academic Blueprint for every parent, can further assist in making the connection for families between success in school and success in life, Roberts added.
DPS is also partnering with Internet Essentials from Comcast to ensure families are aware of a special low-cost home Internet service available to those qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch.
The district’s goal in providing this service is to promote educational excellence not only during school hours, but also at home by facilitating resource sharing, innovation, and unlimited communication.
“Access to Netbooks will enable students to complete homework assignments, explore thousands of libraries, databases, and bulletin boards while exchanging messages with Internet users throughout the world in the comfort of their own homes,” Roberts said.
All Netbooks have LoJack tracking devices on them, and the Netbook devices are clearly marked with the DPS property logo. All parents were required to sign consent forms prior to the Netbooks being released to students.
As a proactive approach to control how students access and utilize the Internet, a student email system titled Gaggle has been programmed on each Netbook. Aside from being a student email provider, Gaggle has several popular features for communication and collaboration all within a safe, filtered, and controlled environment.
Gaggle’s collection of tools include Digital Lockers, Discussion Boards, Chat Rooms, Blogs, Profile Pages, Assignment Drop Boxes, Calendars, a Social Wall, GaggleTube, Zoho Docs, and filtered texting, according to the program website.
“The implantation of Gaggle is the safe and secure solution IT is recommending for DPS students,” said Diane Jones, Chief Information Officer in the Division of Technology Information Services for Detroit Public Schools. “Gaggle will provide a host of communication and instructional tools for use inside the classroom and at home. Gaggle’s solution is specifically designed for K-12 school districts and contains built-in processes that feature content filtering, regulated communication, secure login and cyber safety.”
More Count Day Initiatives
Beginning in October and each month thereafter, the District will spotlight the schools with the highest overall attendance rates and recognize students with perfect attendance. Schools individually will hold recognition events monthly for students with perfect attendance. The District will hold an end-of-the year event to honor the students with perfect attendance, along with an invited staff member who was impactful in each “perfect attendance” student’s teaching and learning.
The DPS Office of School Nutrition (OSN) is supporting efforts to encourage students to attend school every day, all day, by sponsoring a 10- day attendance and school nutrition incentive program beginning on October 3through October 16. At the elementary and middle school levels, schools that attain a 95% attendance rate or better will earn a full-school Pizza Party. Also, each school will conduct a raffle for all students who had perfect attendance during the 10-day period. The winner will receive a $150 gift card.
At the high school level, the OSN will award $10 gift cards to all students who successfully complete an Attendance Passport, demonstrating attendance in every class, including lunch, during the 10-day period. Students will receive their Attendance Passport cards on Tuesday, October 2nd in homeroom and must have each classroom teacher sign and date the card to verify attendance during the 10-day period. Students who achieve perfect attendance in every class will be entered into a raffle for a $150 gift card. There will be one winner for each high school. All gift cards will be awarded after verification on October 23rd.
Finally, a new Automated Calling System, which notifies families of a student’s absence in even one class each day, has logged more than 311,447 calls. A total of 41 Attendance agents have begun addressing truant children.
Several schools also designed a wide variety of activities and events tailored to their own student and parent groups, including “Silly Hair & Hat Day” at Priest Elementary-Middle School, talent shows, education fun days hosted by community partners, backpack and clothing giveaways, daylong open houses, parent meetings, special readings by Reading Corps volunteers, school dances, a peace conference, school-wide cookout and university field trips.