Incentives work for R-H students

The challenge was pretty simple, in fact students had known about it all year. If a student had two or fewer absences for the fourth grading period, then they would get a unique experience at the end of the semester, one involving food. 

And that’s what happened for more than a dozen students at Randolph-Henry High. They were treated to an outdoor barbecue with cornhole games, volleyball, an inflatable slide and prizes. The meal, meanwhile, was made in house, catered by Chef Engelhorn and the culinary arts department. As a reward for attending class, students on May 16 got a meal of grilled chicken, pineapple salsa, pasta salad, strawberry shortcake and lemonade. 

Incentives work

Overall, the district took a different approach than those around it. In Prince Edward, school officials put up posters and had students make videos, warning of the dangers of being absent. Then in Buckingham, notes were sent home to parents. In Charlotte County, however, and specifically at Randolph-Henry, officials rewarded good behavior rather than just focus on the negative portion. And the numbers don’t lie. This way is working.

But it’s not just about incentives. Part of it involves making sure students have what they need at school. The goal is to eliminate any obstacles to success. At Randolph-Henry, students get a free breakfast and lunch. There’s also a student supply cart in the halls, along with a Statesmen Care program for hygiene items in the restrooms. Randolph-Henry also maintains a student success clothes closet on site.

That’s something the state task force looking into chronic absenteeism found as well. If you provide free meals, and give students the things many of them may be lacking at home, those schools have seen a reduction of absenteeism by 6%. This program helps reduce the stigma of hunger and provides a need for students. This guarantees at least two of the three daily meals.

But the incentives do help. If a student has two or fewer absences during a grading period, there are different benefits. In October, for example, students who qualified were invited to an outdoor movie night on the front lawn of the school, with free pizza and popcorn. In December, students that qualified got a special lunch, catered by the Fishin’ Pig, accompanied by live music and some games in the gym. 

“We continued to reward excellent attendance as we work to combat chronic absenteeism,” said Randolph-Henry High Principal Erin Davis.