Attendance, social issues are key factors for H-F student success

Facilitator Greg Hutchings, standing, listens to a discussion among a working group at the Homewood-Flossmoor High strategic planning committee session on Feb. 9. (Provided photo)

Data collected by Homewood-Flossmoor High School administrators show students are struggling in certain areas. Those numbers are having a negative impact on grades and student outcomes.

During the fourth session for the strategic planning process, participants got packets with data on student absences and tardies, as well as their overall mental health. As one attendee said, “Our kids are not alright.”

The strategic planning committee’s task is to formulate how to work through the root causes to come to ways H-F can develop programs and strategies for all students the next 5 to 10 years. 

Statewide average daily attendance was 90.8% in 2022 and 91.2% in 2023. At H-F it was 89.9% in 2022 and dropped to 89% in 2023. 

Illinois’ chronic absence number was 28% in 2023, and H-F’s number was 33%. Students are considered chronically absent if they miss more than 10% of instructional time. Statistics show H-F’s chronic absence rate increased every year since the pandemic. About 31% of all absences are either unverified or excused, according to the H-F report, and another 32% have parental excuses.

Statistics show absences are linked to a lower grade point average (GPA). For those with 90% or better attendance, the GPA average is 3.11 on a 4.0 scale, but for those who attend school less than 90% of the time, the GPA drops to 2.74, according to H-F numbers. 

Students with a greater number of tardies also are linked to more demerits for infractions. Freshmen receive more demerits than seniors. A new system for giving demerits is in place, and the number of demerits has dropped off over the last five years.

H-F also has students taking Terrace Metrics, a test that measures their social/emotional resiliency. Overall, 40% of H-F students in spring 2023 reported resiliency/wellness in the satisfactory or optimal functional categories, which was a 5% increase from the fall semester 2022. 

However, among adversity indicators, ostracism and anxiety yielded the highest percentages in the at-risk category. H-F tested students twice, but the numbers being tested dropped from 1,900 students in fall 2022 to 950 students in spring 2023. Still, the numbers show students who struggled with poor academic, interpersonal and social outcomes may drop out of school, express high psychological distress and report high interpersonal distress, according to Jen Rudan, director of student supports.

H-F has a number of programs in place to help students who classify as “at-risk” or “moderate concern.” According to the findings “each resiliency indicator was positively associated with GPA and standardized math and reading scores, and negatively associated with office discipline referrals, school absences and behavioral outcomes.” 

At the same time, each step lower on the Terrace Metrics scores found GPA dropped by as much as 15%, depending on grade level, and state test scores were reduced as much as 22%. The numbers also predicted absenteeism and tardiness.

Strategic planning facilitator Greg Hutchings of Revolutionary ED, LLC, said he will be using these statistics to develop questions that can lead the committee to H-F outcomes. 

The committee members offered him a number of areas they saw as opportunities and threats to H-F: dual accredited programs are a plus; lower socio/economic backgrounds impact student performance negatively. They also stressed more coordination is necessary between feeder Homewood District 153 and Flossmoor District 161 schools and H-F.

“How do we come together to establish this framework of continuity?” committee member Catherine Cook asked speaking for her planning group at the Feb. 9 session. “Let’s challenge ourselves for shared vision of what we see for students coming out of this community.”

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