This piece is part of “COVID Warriors: How Educators Are Saving the Pandemic Generation,” a two-week series produced in collaboration with the Solutions Journalism Network that explores what educators, schools, and districts are doing to prevent an entire generation of students from lost learning and its lifetime of consequences. Read all the pieces in this series as they are published here. Catch up on all of our solutions-based coverage here.
Tanya Tilghman walked through the courtyard of an apartment complex in southeastern Washington, D.C. on a sunny February morning, where one of her students shouted “Hello!” jubilantly with a wave from an open doorway. Tilghman, the assistant principal at Achievement Preparatory Academy was on a house call — one of many this year — to reconnect with students who haven’t physically been in school since last year.
“Once COVID hit,” Tilghman said, “There was a big disconnect… where we’d have to make extreme efforts to stay connected with our families and make sure students are getting online.”
More than 30 percent of Achievement Prep’s students became chronically absent from virtual learning after COVID-19 shuttered schools last spring. At the K-3 school where more than three-quarters of the students are considered at-risk, educators knew that something needed to change.
Now, the so-called Culture Team ventures out every Wednesday to celebrate some students for their attendance, to support others who are struggling with remote learning, and to suss out the students who have fallen off the map entirely. But, Ms Tilgman says, “Chronic absenteeism is a huge, uphill climb for us.” That means that those home visits are critical for engaging students who need those touch points now more than ever.
Watch how the Achievement Prep team responded quickly to the worsening problem and started to turn it around — by meeting students and families where they are to ensure that families remain engaged and students continue to learn through the pandemic.
— Edited by Jim Fields; Produced by Jim Fields & Emmeline Zhao
Click here to see the full COVID Warriors series