Leading the effort is Mellisa May, the attendance liaison at Flagship. In her role, May actively engages with families daily.
“My role involves making calls every morning for scholars who are unfortunately absent or running behind. I connect with parents, keeping them informed about available resources and support services," May explained.
The idea for the laptop giveaway came from a need to support families and teachers in the community, particularly in terms of technology.
"We understand the needs of our scholars, especially after living through an entire pandemic. Internet access and electronic devices are crucial for academic success," May emphasized.
To motivate and reward students for their attendance, Flagship collaborated with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), formerly known as the Emergency Broadband Program. The ACP assists families with students from kindergarten to college, providing grants for internet connectivity and other related services.
Through the program, Flagship secured funding for 50 laptops equipped with the latest software. The laptops include step-by-step instructions for households to apply for an ACP grant to get high-speed internet for the home and even a free cell phone, addressing potential communication barriers.
May shared that the school named the program, "Stuffing Stockings Through Christmas." The giveaways, which started in August, involved monthly raffles or challenges organized by the attendance office. These events aimed to reward scholars, teachers, administrative staff, and families, focusing on positive attendance behaviors.
As the holidays approached, May noticed there were still more than 30 laptops to distribute for the rest of the year. She decided to transition the program into a "Laptop a Day Giveaway" for the remaining 13 days leading up to Christmas break, creating an added incentive during the holiday season.
"We understand the higher incidents of adverse attendance behaviors during the holidays,” May stated. “Families travel, and the weather gets colder, providing additional reasons for students to miss school. By removing barriers, we encourage scholars to attend regularly."
The program doesn't solely focus on rewarding perfect attendance; the criteria broadened to include scholars with attendance rates of 87% and above, encouraging positive attendance behaviors without demanding perfection. It also recognizes teachers and administration members who go above and beyond.
"Teachers at Flagship genuinely care about the scholars. We identified ways to give back to both our teachers, households, and scholars," stated May.
The impact of the program extends beyond the laptops. May, who is also the athletic director, emphasized the importance of layering incentives like sports, arts, and other extracurricular activities.
May says the program is working, leading to improved attendance rates at Flagship Charter Academy. “Every morning, I run the school's average attendance rate. Since implementing this incentive, scholars are showing up, and we've consistently maintained an 85% to 89% attendance rate."
She encourages other schools to explore similar programs in their community. “Meet your scholars where they are, understand their needs, and better provide for them.”
Great job prioritizing attendance and equipping those in need with essential tools!
About Flagship Charter Academy
Flagship Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Detroit, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.