Oakland Unified School District, like districts across the country, is striving to improve academic performance and social outcomes for its students. Boosting attendance rates is a critical, and sometimes overlooked, part of this effort. Students can’t learn—at least what they should be learning—if they’re not in school.
Many families, however, do not fully appreciate the value of regular attendance, particularly at an early age when the importance of learning and its connection to a child’s prospects are not as evident. Yet, results in high school, college, career and life are heavily predicated on the foundation of early learning. For example, failure to read proficiently by the end of third grade correlates highly with high school dropout rates and other negative outcomes such as poor health, financial insolvency, incarceration and higher mortality rates.
While most people appreciate the significance of high school, early learning is sometimes undervalued, meaning attendance—and performance—suffer as a result. Chronic absence rates in OUSD elementary schools are unacceptably high and OUSD is determined to change that through a citywide campaign it’s conducting with civic partners.
Traditional attempts to explain the importance of regular attendance from the earliest days of school have been conventional, dry, academic and aimed more at parents than the children who actually attend school.
OUSD retained the video production company Portal A to turn this trend on its head and produce “I’m an Oakland School Kid,” a kid-centered video designed to produce excitement amongst younger children about attending school. These kids, in turn, can pressure their parents to ensure they get to school in much the same way previous public service campaigns have used children to influence parental attitudes and behavior on issues as diverse as seat belts, smoking and diet.
We’ve underestimated our children for too long. It’s time we stop talking over them and start talking to them. They are the audience, the future and much more capable than we typically give them credit for being. “I’m an Oakland Kid” recognizes and celebrates this fact.