Editorial: Diversified incentive programs produce promising results

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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The Pittsburgh Public Schools have teamed with several organizations to boost attendance rates by providing both a better environment for kids and incentivizing them to go to school.

The Be There campaign, along with the United Way of Allegheny County and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, are initiatives Pittsburgh schools have implemented to “inspire families to become more involved in their children’s education.” According to the Be There campaign website, the program functions as  “a valuable and easy-to-use tool for educators who want to increase family involvement in their schools.”

While schools have seen substantial decreases in absentee rates among students on the elementary level — namely through the creation of incentives such as free pizza, monthly rewards and the like — creating a similar system for middle school and high schools students will be more challenging. The incentives offered will have to be greater and more enticing for students to attend school because at that age, school might not be a priority for the chronically absent. While improvements to curricula might appeal to more students, students must attend first.

Thus, programs shouldn’t only emphasize school attendance, but should also demonstrate how school can be engaging and worthwhile. So, what are possible proposals that, instead of attempting to fit every mold of every school, allow school administrators to choose what is most effective given their diverse parameters?

One potential initiative could compensate students for having remarkable attendance records throughout a given school year. If the student has an exceptional attendance rate — one determined by the high school — over the course of the academic year, he or she will be entered to win a prize. Rewarding students by raffling off computers, electronics and monetary prizes in the form of scholarships has the potential to incentivize high school students nationwide.

Another potential initiative could include the installment of a point-reward system, through which students receive points for each day they attend school. Inspired by similar forms of this system in middle schools, students can use their points to purchase extra credit opportunities, snacks and school apparel, among other options. This way, students are not only rewarded, but can personalize what they receive in return for going to school.

An initiative that could increase school attendance by enhancing school curricula and diminishing the connotation of school being useless and culturally out of touch with students, is the increased implementation of out-of-the-classroom programs. Field trips, excursions and classes held at varying locations can provide students with alternate learning environments, thereby, softening the negative connotations the chronically absent students have toward school. Schools that provide different learning environments for students promote students’ attendance as rewarding.

Ultimately, these initiatives, while their roots still center on the idea of incentivization, attempt to provide inspiration for high school administrators seeking to lower truancy rates. Not every initiative is applicable, but there are forms tailored to the parameters of each school to function as the catalyst to keep students in school.

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