Improving attendance in all Newark Public Schools is a major part of superintendent Roger Leon’s plan to bring up grades across the district. And while an elementary school has the best overall attendance with around 97 percent of students, Leon is challenging high school kids to match that goal.
“On standardized achievement, in classroom work, the students who are coming to school are going to outperform those who do not,” Leon said.
In steps the New York Red Bulls who play their home games in neighboring Harrison, along with the clubs Official Education Partner Southern New Hampshire University, with the ‘Goal for Perfect Attendance Program.’
“The school at the end of the year that’s going to have the highest attendance rate will receive a grant of $10,000 to beautify their school the way they see fit,” said New York Red Bulls General Manager Marc de Grandpre during a press event announcing the program. “If we can move the needle two to three, or five percent up across all of the schools in Newark, that’s a win for us ultimately. If the kids are in class and engaged every day, that’s the basis for them to succeed. We’re excited to be able to incentivize them to show up.”
Newark High School students can expect other surprises for showing up to class consistently throughout the school year.
“They’ll get tickets to attend our games, special tours of the stadium, and the players will be involved and do surprise visits at the school during their general assembly’s,” De Grandpre said. “We’re really engaging our whole organization to really drive the message home that it’s important to be here.”
Red Bulls are just one of several Major League Soccer Teams Southern New Hampshire University partners with to bring education driven initiatives to communities.
“Newark is such an incredibly diverse and interesting school district. So many learners from different places all over the world,” said Steve Thiel, assistant vice president of social impact for Southern New Hampshire University. “Getting excited about this will ultimately make this initiative succeed. Classmates holding each other accountable. Classmates extending an empathetic hand to another student struggling with attendance and seeing how they can help.”
Some students already have ideas on what $10,000 could do to make life better in the classroom.
“I think something we can really use is new Chromebooks in the classroom. In this day and age everything is done on computers,” said Alvaro Generali, a senior at East Side High School in Newark and captain of the varsity soccer team. “It’s much easier on the teachers, instead of grading one-hundred and fifty kids work by hand, they just do it on computers. The problem is we don’t have Chromebooks for every single kid. The Chromebooks we do have, some of them are missing keys, some of them die very quickly. New Chromebooks are something we could really use.”
The ‘Goal for Perfect Attendance Program’ has already started.
“The interesting thing about the challenge is that it started in September even though nobody was aware of it,” NPS superintendent Roger Leon. “So, every single one of the principals will present to their student body information about this announcement, and that all of the high schools were represented at the event.”
Prizes will be awarded to the Newark Public Schools and their students with the best attendance rates in May 2020.