Actionable Information

Challenge 5

In the early years of school, good attendance increases the chance of passing from grade to grade. By high school, good attendance is essential to passing classes and earning enough credits to graduate in four years. Challenge 5 reduces chronic absenteeism by letting parents and students know that more than five absences each school year, beginning in kindergarten, increases the risk of dropping out, and decreases the chance of graduating from high school.

Strive for Less Than 5

Strive for Less Than Five

All students have unlimited potential to learn, achieve, and succeed in school.

The first step toward achieving that potential: attend school each and every day. Unless your child or teen is too sick to get out of bed, he or she should be in school.

Each year in Michigan, students have the opportunity to attend 180 days of school. Your child has a right to learn and attend school each of those days. Each day that your child does not attend school is a missed opportunity to learn.

If your child misses up to five days of school, she can probably make up what she misses. If your child misses nine days, he is in a danger zone. Students who miss 18 or more days are considered chronically absent, and it will be very difficult for them to graduate if this happens year after year.

Students have a right to learn in Michigan, and the first step toward realizing that right is making sure your child or teen attends school every day.


Challenge 5 Preschool logos

County-wide collaboration includes Kent ISD, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, Grand Rapids Community College, K-Connect, Kent School Services Network, Great Start Collaborative, Steelcase Foundation, and Believe 2 Become

With 6.5 million students chronically absent from school in the United States each year, including an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 in Kent County, several local organizations are teaming up to make sure our youngest children are establishing good attendance habits early.

Through a catchy local attendance campaign that has gone national, educational institutions, non-profits, community organizations, and philanthropy in Kent County are joining forces to help parents of Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) preschoolers understand the importance of good school attendance county-wide, beginning in the first months of preschool.

“Most parents know that good school attendance is the foundation for learning essential skills on time, staying on track in school, and graduating from high school,” said Michael Ghareeb, Kent ISD Director of Early Childhood Education. “They might be surprised to learn, however, that good attendance means missing fewer than five days a year and that attendance habits start in preschool. Good attendance in preschool will make your child more likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to earn a good living as an adult.”

The effort includes two opportunities from Believe 2 Become, an initiative of the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, to participate using social media and smart phones: (1) a fun October social media video contest featuring preschoolers, and (2) a school-year-long text messaging component that sends parents helpful attendance and literacy tips every two weeks. Collaborative support for the texting program has come from the Great Start Collaborative, Steelcase Foundation, and B2B.

The social media contest will include GSRP classrooms at Kent ISD, GRPS, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC), and Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC). Each GSRP preschool teacher will be invited to post a short video of their students saying “Strive for less than five!,” using all the creativity and energy their tiny students can muster. The video that receives the highest engagement on social media will win a grand prize of $200 in gift cards, and nine other videos will be selected as $100 gift card winners in the following categories: most creative, most funny, greatest age range (parents and grandparents are welcome!), most people featured, most colorful, most inclusive, most endearing, most persuasive, most powerful.

Important Insights

Chronic absenteeism is strongly correlated with low student achievement and failure to graduate from high school.

Standard school attendance data can mask patterns of chronic absenteeism.

Parents are a critical component in reducing chronic absenteeism and improving school attendance.

When chronic absenteeism decreases, student achievement increases.

Parents need clear, concrete, actionable information on expectations for school attendance. When they learn it’s important to strive for fewer than five absences each school year, they take action to improve their children’s attendance.

When parents understand the strong correlation between school attendance and graduation, they are naturally motivated to enforce good school attendance.

Challenge 5, a coordinated effort to reduce chronic absenteeism, includes five elements:

  • universal strategy, including quantification of attendance goal (fewer than five days absent)
  • robust data analysis
  • integration of attendance with principal performance evaluations
  • in-school competitions and incentives
  • disruptive communication strategy

In the year it implemented Challenge 5 (2014-15), Grand Rapids Public Schools reduced chronic absenteeism 25% (an 8 point drop from 33 to 25%).

In the second year of Challenge 5 (2015-16), Grand Rapids Public Schools reduced chronic absenteeism another 17% (a 4.25 point drop from 25 to 20.75%).

Want to Implement Challenge 5?

Due to popular demand, Believe 2 Become is making the Challenge 5 attendance campaign available nationwide for download. Click below to send an email, indicate Challenge 5 in the subject line.

Expert Resources

  • Strategic framework and disruptive strategies: Chaná Edmond-Verley, Believe 2 Become
  • Data analysis and reporting: Mel Atkins II, Grand Rapids Public Schools Office of Parent Engagement and Hedy Chang, Attendance Works
  • Integration of attendance with district performance metrics: Teresa Weatherall Neal, Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • In-school competitions and incentives: School principals, faculty and staff; Believe 2 Become parent engagement teams; Kent School Services Network in-school representatives
  • In-school and community-facing communication strategy: Creative Change Mission