LAUSD Attendance Challenge Underway

There is a thousand different thoughts that came to mind as we wrote this. Let’s start here.

Everyone loves perks.  Incentives, gifts with purchase, or special prizes for doing nothing more than what you already do, or are supposed to do.  Heck, we are big fans of giveaways ourselves.

The sheer volume of consumer reward programs will attest to the fact of our love affair with being rewarded for doing the things we already do.  So why not stretch incentive based programs into how we motivate kids to go and stay in school?

Well, it looks like the LAUSD isn’t any different and is rolling out an incentive program to motivate students (and parents) to do that thing they are already expected to do – go to school.

Think of it as the carrot dangling from the end of the motivation stick.

What’s being rolled out is a 7 month perfect attendance giveaway program (October 2012 to May 2013) with a range of cash and product giveaways  to incentivize kids into going, and staying, in school.

Schools win big in this giveaway program too as they have cash incentives, movie screenings and an end of year concert.

Essentially, the contest works by tracking kids with perfect attendance and awarding prizes monthly and at the end of the contest period, which is the end of the school year.

Sponsorship for the LAUSD Attendance Challenge comes from Clear Channel Media and Entertainment and other “valued corporate partners.”

This has interesting ramifications on corporate sponsorships in schools which California Watch reported on in 2011.  In their report, they say that some studies have shown that corporate sponsorships have detrimental effects by undermining students’ critical thinking skills.  This is especially true when partnerships have very little educational benefit for the student, such as, the report says,  “spending time on corporate contests and not on curriculum.”

You can find more info on the LAUSD Attendance Challenge from the LAUSD Pupil Services, or read the Challenge Guidelines and the do’s and don’ts of what qualifies as perfect attendance. Essentially, it boils down to all current LAUSD students who are actively enrolled with perfect (100%) attendance for the time period specified are eligible to participate.

The rules stipulate that LAUSD students must be present every school day.  Excused or unexcused absences or tardies automatically disqualify students from being eligible for the specified month. The student must be at school for all periods of the day and be on time to each class without tardies within the school day.

Prizes, according to an LAUSD promotional pdf, consists of:

  • Grand Prize for Seniors Only: Two Brand-New cars
  • Grand Prize: 5 iPads

Monthly Prizes include:

  • 20-inch Bicycles and 26-inch Bicycles
  • Knott’s Berry Farm 4 Packs
  • Aquarium of the Pacific 4 Packs
  • Baja Fresh meal coupons
  • Subway meal coupons
  • AMC Movie Tickets

Schools have a chance to win

  • Seven (7) $3,000 cash prizes total (one per Board District).
  • Elementary Grand Prize – A special end-of-the-year private screening of an upcoming movie from Walt Disney
  • Studios – Special incentive in November: Winning school is awarded a special screening.
  • Secondary Grand Prize – An end-of-the-year school concert for the winning school.

Individual schools will be responsible for making any corrections to student’s attendance records on LAUSDMAX and will have up to a specified date every month to update records before the monthly data collection is completed.  Prize selection will be made by the Chief Operating Officer, the Director of Pupil Services, Executive Director of Student Health and Human Services, and the Director of the Office of Data and Accountability.  Collectively, they will oversee the monthly random prize drawing and resolve any disputes of eligibility.

Some absences, including sports, field trips, and special testing will not count negatively towards the student.

I’m sure the legal teams at the LAUSD and Clear Channel have devised a means to ensure the fairness and legalities of the incentive program sweepstakes, but besides a quick mention of Clear Channel paying for the grand prize winner’s prize tax, say nothing of the ramifications of winning such a prize.  Remember what happened when Oprah gave away cars to her studio audience.  In Oprah’s case audience winners were given three options –  “keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profits or forfeit the car.”  Hopefully, this won’t be the case to the two lucky seniors.

This incentive program is just one of the steps for improving student attendance as determined by the Los Angeles County School Attendance Task Force.  The incentive program is one of several that the Task Force believes effective in turning around truant students attendance issues and includes:

  • Developing a complete assessment process to determine the primary causes for student attendance issues.
  • Creating a strong and comprehensive data-tracking system to effectively identify students with attendance issues early, and quickly target interventions.
  • Nurturing strong parental involvement and participation.
  • Creating a three-tiered approach to improving student attendance that provides broad interventions for all students, more targeted interventions for students who meet the criteria for being at risk for poor attendance, and substantial interventions for students with intensive needs.
  • And requiring cognitive behavior therapy for students with poor attendance, especially when paired with parent and teacher training.

Also on that list is the use of use of incentives for positive behavior and attendance, which is now the LAUSD Attendance Challenge.

But, if all else fails to get the student (or parent) in line with the good citizenship of school attendance and participation, fines, tickets, and other criminal prosecution still loom in the background for the most egregious of offenders.  You can read the full Los Angeles County School Attendance Task Force Executive Summary here.

In the mean time, sharpen those pencils and set the clock so that your LAUSD students can make it to school on time this year… They might just be able to drive home at the end of the school year in a brand new car.

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