Connecticut Gov. Launches Effort to Engage Families, Students At Home

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) launched the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP) with $10.7 million in federal relief funds. This program is designed to support students who struggled with chronic absenteeism and disengagement from remote learning during the 2020-21 school year. Funding is being distributed across 15 priority districts to contract support personnel who will go directly into homes to engage with families and students. The goal is to help students return to school regularly and assist families with placement in summer camps and learning programs.

We are spotlighting this practice because research has documented that chronic absenteeism influences students’ long-term success in school. Since the pandemic disrupted students’ engagement and attendance patterns, this investment is an evidence-based approach to re-engage students for COVID-19 recovery.

Implementation Update

CERC has provided findings related to the LEAP initiative, which was developed in “April of 2021 to address student absenteeism and disengagement from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” CERC’s analysis included data from 15 participating school districts in the state and pointed to statistically significant positive and “long-term” effects in 14 districts that implemented the program using an in-person model.

The LEAP program allowed districts to leverage federal recovery funds to train and deploy family and community liaisons to conduct in-person, regular home visits with families of students considered chronically absent. The analysis found that the LEAP program resulted in as much as a 30-point improvement in student absenteeism rates in the 6 months or more following the first home visit.

The CERC analysis of the LEAP program found six key areas that, according to home visitors, school staff, and families, contributed to overwhelming success of the program, including:

  1. Personalized, Dynamic Support: Dependent on Family’s Needs
  2. Continued Training and Support for the Visitors
  3. A Process of Collaboration (e.g., Determining Caseload Assignments)
  4. Home Visitor Fluency in the Language Used in the Home
  5. Commitment to Establishing Connections with Families
  6. Collaborative Advocacy for Students (e.g., Parents, Home Visitors)

For more information on the CERC analysis of the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program, click here.

Reviewer Analysis

TNTP

The plan to send support personnel directly to the very heart of the matter (the homes of the students) has the potential change the trajectory of the students and their families. - Dr. Tequilla Brownie

Leslie Villegas

English learners were disproportionately absent during remote learning and even as schools re-opened, parents of ELs were among those most weary of sending their kids back to school considering the higher infection rates that affected immigrant communities.

John White

This intervention makes a lot of sense and is badly needed. School systems should be encouraged to do more of this, even if there’s not an obvious path to replication or scale in this program.

Jocelyn Pickford

Leveraging regional service centers to work with local communities is smart. Efforts to conduct personalized outreach to families are important during this time.

New Leaders

This is a targeted and strategic use of funds that will help to rebuild relationships with students and families and directly address obstacles prohibiting students from being in school. It’s an opportunity to both re-engage and address unfinished learning.

Learning Heroes

This is a strong approach for three fundamental reasons: 1) it prioritizes students most impacted by the pandemic, 2) it focuses on an essential driver of academic success (attendance), and 3) approaches absenteeism through proven methods (individualized outreach and support to families). - Dr. Eyal Bergman

The Education Trust

This is a promising practice to re-connect disengaged students to schools and ensure they have the holistic supports they need. It is critical that home visitors are trained to support diverse families and needs, and that the individuals conducting home visits are not truancy officers or act as policing students and families.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center

Re-engaging students who have drifted away from school is important, and I like the focus on going to the kids and families directly to offer smart specific support.

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