Charlotte CIS Announces Sweeping New Initiative to Boost Attendance in Schools


Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CIS-Charlotte), in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and the corporate community, is launching a new initiative designed to combat chronic absenteeism and boost student attendance. In support of the new “Attendance+” program’s launch, Bank of America and the Charlotte Hornets will host a “tip-off” event on February 28 at Quail Hollow Middle School, one of the Title I schools in which CIS-Charlotte operates.

“Consistent school attendance is essential for students to obtain the academic, social and emotional skills needed to be successful,” stated Men Tchaas Ari, CIS-Charlotte’s President and CEO. “Chronic absenteeism has real-life consequences for students, families and society.”

“Teachers and school personnel can provide outstanding curriculum and resources for our kids, but if the kids are not in school to take advantage of the information, learning does not take place,” said Ari.  “The good news is that chronic absenteeism can be reduced when the community pulls together to intervene – and that is what we are doing with Attendance+.”

Attendance+ is a multi-school, rewards-based program that incentivizes students, families and teachers to actively engage in learning. Community partners donate resources and incentives, such as tickets to sporting events, museums and concerts, while CIS leverages those incentives to motivate behavioral change to improve overall school attendance.

Dr. Cotrane Penn, CMS Executive Director of Student Wellness & Academic Support, said the Attendance+ initiative comes at a critical time to support the district’s student reengagement and attendance priorities. She explained that more than 1 in 4 students (29%) were chronically absent in the 2021-2022 school year, which is more than twice as high as before the COVID-19 pandemic. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of the academic year.

“CMS believes in partnering with students, families and the community to promote good attendance practices,” said Penn. “This creative approach to provide incentives and rewards to boost attendance is a welcome addition to the district’s current efforts to engage students and improve chronic absenteeism. We are excited to partner with Communities In Schools and the corporate community to implement Attendance+ and look forward to celebrating with our students and schools as they work to improve attendance.”

“Addressing absenteeism has to be the responsibility of the entire community which is why Bank of America is collaborating with other corporations to find creative solutions,” said Kieth Cockrell, President of Bank of America Charlotte. “We and our partners are committed to providing the necessary resources for Attendance+ to help reduce absenteeism.”

In support of the Attendance+ program, the Hornets and Bank of America are donating a co-branded book vending machine for Quail Hollow Middle School, which will provide another form of student incentives and rewards. The vending machine is coin-operated, and students can receive tokens for meeting individual attendance goals determined by school counselors and staff. There will be opportunities for other companies to follow suit to provide similar book vending machines in other CMS Title I schools.

“We are excited to support the new Attendance+ program and to encourage students to attend school,” said Hornets President & Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield. “A strong education will be vital for these students as they get older and move on to the next stages of their lives, and it is important that we do our part to help ensure that they are in school to receive that education. We are proud to join Communities In Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Bank of America in this effort, and we hope that other companies will engage in this initiative so every school that needs a vending machine can have one.”

CIS-Charlotte operates in 56 K-12 schools (45 of which are Title I schools) in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. CIS places professional staff inside schools and establishes one-on-one relationships with students to help them overcome barriers in the classroom, at home and in the community. CIS staff will have access to donated Attendance+ incentives to encourage and reward students and families as they achieve attendance milestones.

CIS acknowledges that social determinants of health are closely linked to chronic absenteeism. Factors such as school climate, housing and food insecurity, bullying, and other systemic inequities, can have a negative impact on attendance. CIS works to address these barriers because the organization believes that every student can succeed when provided with appropriate support and equitable resources. Attendance+ will be another tool in the agency’s toolkit of integrated student supports.

“We are grateful to the many corporate partners who are leaning into this initiative to support our kids,” said Ari.  “It is going to take the entire community rallying together on students’ behalf.”