Incentive program boosting DMS attendance

Demopolis Middle School attendance figures are sky high in the early part of the academic year due in large part to an incentive-based program.

The program – dubbed “Hawaii 5-0” – rewards students who make it through the first 50 days of school with perfect attendance each school day without checking in or checking out.

“I’m not so sure how much our kids are familiar with what Hawaii 5-0 is. I know they had a retake of that came back out, a new one,” first-year Demopolis Middle School principal Blaine Hathcock said, recalling the popular 1970s television show and recent CBS reboot for which the attendance program is named. “Basically, it rewards perfect attendance and no check-ins or check-outs for the 50 days of school. The incentive is that we are going to do a luau for our kids at the

Civic Center at the end of those 50 days.”

Through the first 20 days of school, the program had produced impressive results with more than 400 students holding perfect attendance records.

“The first 20-day count, we were at 97 percent attendance. That’s pretty phenomenal for 560-some-odd children. Again, you can’t check in, you can’t check out. You have to be perfect. We’ve been holding their feet to the fire with that,” Hathcock said. “Our kids are really excited bout it, I think. We’re going to roast a pig and do the limbo, the whole thing. We’re going to go take a couple of hours and we’re going to bus all those kids to the Civic Center. That’s going to be their reward for perfect attendance.”

The program has been a kind of revelation for the school, which has struggled with attendance in years past.

“Attendance was an issue here at our school. Actually, two or three years ago, we were actually in school improvement for attendance. I knew it was something that we needed to address here when I got here,” Hathcock said. “It serves a lot of purposes. Obviously AYP, some of the accountability things that we have are based on attendance figures. Students can’t learn, obviously, if they’re not here. There is so much high stakes testing that is going on now. We need them here to continue with  (improving) our test scores.”

The program could also help the school when it comes to state funding, which is determined each year by student attendance during the first 40 days of school.

“You’re funded based on the amount of students you have in that first 40-day count, which in turn relates to teaching units. The more people we got here, the more we’re getting credit for, which benefits us another way in the long run,” Hathcock said. “I think it’s something that is going to be good for us. It was really good for us the first 20 days. We had 421 students out of 560 that were no check-ins, no checkouts, perfect in attendance. That’s pretty good. It’s something that we’re excited about. And we want this to be a fun place for them to go to school, somewhere they want to come to school.”

Hathcock said the school will look into a similar incentive program during the spring semester.