Year 5 Update
We are currently in Year 5 of our 5-year All Kids Thrive initiative.
In our mission to address chronic absenteeism, we’ve learned many lessons, particularly from the pandemic: we pivoted from helping students get to school, to helping them learn remotely, then in hybrid classroom formats, and then eventually, helping them get back to school.
We’re working with community partners, learning how to help them address trauma, mental health, hunger and technology challenges for students.
Over the last few years, we have created a learning community. Our partners meet regularly as a cohort to share their experiences, challenges they may be facing and even opportunities they have discovered along the way. We celebrate their successes, we learn from them, and they are learning from each other.
These connections began early in our partnerships and became essential with the isolation presented by the pandemic. Our schools learned how important partnerships with community-based nonprofits could be for their families, while the nonprofits saw how working with schools helped them deepen their relationships with the families they serve.
We view these partnerships as essential – not only for improving attendance, but for working on all the other problems that arise because of missed school days: increased hunger, loss of housing, persistent poverty.
We are working to coalesce the lessons learned and plan to share some of the lessons to raise awareness and to promote and help shape best practices so that, throughout our region and our state, All Kids Thrive.
About All Kids Thrive
Education can be a pathway out of poverty, but poverty can also prevent children from attending school.
Goal: to work with nonprofit partners to develop programs that elicit strong school-based partnerships, so that children and adolescents living in poverty would be supported to attend school and have opportunities to succeed along key development benchmarks along the educational pipeline. We were committed to making sure that All Kids Thrive.
Investment: $3 million over 5 years
Funded: 10 school/nonprofit partnerships in four communities (Hamilton, Lawrence, Princeton and Trenton)
Goal: to reduce chronic absenteeism in local schools
What is chronic absenteeism? Students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year – an average of two days a month – are considered chronically absent.
Why is chronic absenteeism harmful for students? It often leads to negative educational outcomes. Students miss learning along key educational development points as they reach kindergarten, third grade, middle school, and secondary school.
The work of our All Kids Thrive partners: Each school-nonprofit team created unique plans to increase attendance rates based on factors they recognized as causing their own students to miss class. Some worked on district-wide initiatives, others in specific schools, grade-levels or with specific groups of students. We aimed to be as innovative as possible with our philanthropic dollars and learn which approaches might work best.
The impact of COVID-19 on All Kids Thrive: Part-way through Year 2 of the program, the pandemic upended everything. Schools suddenly switched to virtual learning.
For families living in poverty, that virtual environment created extra layers of difficulties: parents who worked essential jobs, like grocery store clerks and warehouse workers, suddenly lost their daytime childcare; some youngsters missed the free- and reduced-price school meals that provided nourishment five days a week; other parents initially did not have WiFi access, tablets, or computers to connect their kids to classrooms.
We gave our partners the flexibility to pivot, with both their funding and their models.
They fed families. They helped parents connect to classrooms. They changed the way they measured attendance, focusing on student engagement.
What’s next: We hope to share the lessons we’ve learned with the broader community, so we can help even more kids thrive!