Mayor Sly James’ literacy initiative, Turn the Page KC, has won a $10,000 prize in AT&T’s nationwide “Data for Diplomas” challenge with a proposal for lowering student absenteeism across the state.
Turn the Page KC’s studied the correlation between high absenteeism and low graduation rates in Missouri, using data released as part of an education summit in Kansas City earlier this year on the detrimental affects of student mobility.
High absenteeism stems partly from families moving to new school districts, and families in poverty tend to move more frequently than those who are not, said Mike English, executive director of Turn the Page KC. Each time a child switches schools, parents or guardians must show proof-of-residency and follow additional transfer protocols that include waiting on schools to get a student’s records from one school to another especially in an out of district transfer.
The process can delay a student’s enrollment and lead to a student missing between five and 30 days of school, English said. The more instruction days a student misses has a negative impact on academic success and literacy.
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The AT&T challenge had asked individuals and groups across the nation to experiment with public data and come up with an effort that could help boost graduation rates in the nation’s high schools. Competitors for the prize money studied everything from high school student transfer rates to cold-weather climates, AT&T officials said.
Turn the Page KC’s winning idea would provide a way to reduce the number of days a student is absent from school. The group suggests establishing a secure online portal that would simplify the transfer of information between districts, and potentially speed up the enrollment of students moving from school to school.
The portal would act as a digital lock box where the former school would upload a student’s records. The school receiving the student could electronically access the information using a security code. Once the transfer was complete the records would disappear from the portal.
In addition, the team suggested working with local public utilities to make obtaining proof-of-residency at a new address a faster process.
English said the Turn the Page team will take its portal prototype to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to see if the state would be interested in securing a company to develop such a system. The prize money could be used to help pay for the development, English said.
Turn the Page KC’s mission is to mobilize the community to achieve reading proficiency at grade level or above for all third graders in Kansas City. The group was founded by Mayor James four years ago.