Education Foundation of Teton Valley: $5,000
The Community Foundation of Teton Valley is honored to award this $5,000 grant to the Education Foundation of Teton Valley to host a Teton Valley Cares event designed to break down access barriers and help families connect with the resources and experts. It supports the need to be ready to learn on their first day of school. The Foundation strongly supports EFTV’s efforts in helping families prepare their children to learn. This grant is also leveraged in partnership with Teton County School District #401, additional assistance from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Jansport, and private donors.
In 2020, 9.7% of Teton School District students were identified as chronically absent. In 2022, that percentage rose to 30%, according to data from the Idaho State Department of Education. This is not just a local issue. The nonprofit Attendance Works identified that 10.1 million students nationwide were chronically absent in the 2020-2021 school year. They estimate that chronic absence has more than doubled from pre-covid years and continues to rise.
Chronic absence is a student missing 10% or more of school days during the school year. Chronic absence can translate into students having difficulty learning to read by third grade, achieving in middle school, and graduating from high school. The rapid increase in chronic absences nationally and locally is concerning. While chronic absence presents academic challenges for those students missing instruction, when it reaches high levels in classrooms and schools, all students can be negatively impacted. As students miss and re-enter the classroom consistently throughout the year, the cadence of instruction must shift to meet their needs. Classroom instruction builds upon itself over a school year. When multiple students have significant gaps in their knowledge because of absenteeism, teachers are faced with the impossible task of further differentiating their classrooms to reteach lessons.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals identifies six common problems that contribute to chronic absenteeism, including:
- Bad Grades
- Caring for another family member
- Mental or emotional health issues
- Difficulties with housing and food
Because this is a nationwide issue, there are data-driven systemic approaches to addressing chronic absenteeism. The most effective method uses a coordinated district and community approach. Two key ingredients that communities can put in place to support better student outcomes are:
• Strategic Partnerships: Help students and families connect with community partners that address basic needs like food, health services, mental health services, economic support, engagement, and enrichment opportunities.
• Adequate, Equitable Resources. Ensure students from all backgrounds and circumstances have access to those resources.
When we dive deeper into the data on who is experiencing chronic absenteeism in our public school district, we see that 44% are students from low-income families, 39% are students with disabilities, and 37% are students learning English. This data suggests that we must collectively address access barriers to the resources available in our community.
The Community Foundation grant will support, in part, EFTV’s hosting of the Teton Valley Cares- Back to School Readiness Event, which takes a community-based approach to help students and families in preparing for the transition from summer to a new school year. The event is designed to connect families with the resources, experts, and support they need to find success throughout a nine-month school year. The event is purposefully intended to gather all resources in one central location to break down barriers preventing equitable access. It specifically addresses the two key community supports that can be implemented to support families in getting their children to school and maintaining their attendance throughout the year. Last year, Teton Valley Cares was described by an attendee as “needed, wanted, and done with dignity.”
In partnership with the community, EFTV will plan and implement the event as follows:
1. Host a Community-Wide Event in August that provides the resources, experts, and support that families need, specifically targeting community partners that address basic needs.
a. Organize the event in three wings: Health, Community Connections, and Resources. EFTV does not have partners finalized this year, but in the past, it provided: Free health and dental checkups, immunizations, hearing, vision, and developmental screenings. Connections with the school district transportation department, free and reduced lunch, afterschool and community-based programs, mental health resources, food security resources, citizenship resources, school supplies, books and enrichment activities, clothing, period products, household items, bikes, haircuts, and health care.
b. Resources provided will address the six common causes for chronic absenteeism and connect families to local resources specifically identified in the strategic partnerships method.
2. Design the event in a way that breaks down barriers and targets advertisements for the populations that need it most.
a. Host all groups in one location for at least 3 hours on a Saturday morning when most families have at least one parent not working.
b. Advertise to the entire community so that the event does not require attendees to “humble themselves” to come and access resources. Normalize connecting with resources that are needed.
c. Provide ample, targeted, and translated marketing materials. Provide translators at the event to help families navigate conversations.
d. Ensure all community partners who attend provide services for free or on a sliding scale.
e. Connect with school groups like Latino’s In Action to provide follow-up connections in mid-year.
The Community Foundation commends the important work of EFTV in hosting a Teton Valley Cares event that will connect families to resources and information that will enable their children to have a successful start to the school year and beyond.