Berkeley High to offer rewards to boost attendance


A focus on attendance at Berkeley High has paid off, but there’s more work to do and a new scheme hopes to reward students for staying in class

In an effort to build on a concerted campaign to keep students in class, Berkeley High is introducing an incentive scheme based on rewards that the school hopes will be donated by local businesses and members of the community.

“It’s about recognizing and rewarding the kids who are in class,” said Daniel Roose, Dean of Attendance at Berkeley High, who said the past two years have been spent focusing more on the students who skip school. “We have been addressing the needs of truants, getting them resources and setting consequences. Now we want to step up the game and introduce positive incentives.”

Starting next week, at the beginning of the school’s second semester, the high school will begin a fundraising push to collect attendance rewards. Roose said he is hoping to galvanize local businesses into contributing money or products and services as rewards for kids who have good attendance.

He intends to create two funds. The first will be for small rewards — a voucher for a movie ticket or bagel — that can be given to individual students who have improved their attendance record. “I’d like to be able to go up to a student in the corridor and shake their hand and give them a coupon for a free ice cream as a way of showing appreciation,” Roose said.

The second fund will be for larger donations towards one or two big rewards that could be put in a lottery. “Ideally, this prize would be worth several hundred dollars, or even several thousand dollars, in order to generate student interest and some media buzz,” said Roose.

Attendance has been under the spotlight at BHS for the past two years, and the effort has paid off. While in 2010 only about 90.7% of the students attended school regularly, the numbers have improved steadily since then (see chart). (The data is measured using unexcused absences which do not necessarily mean the student has missed an entire day of school. It can mean he or she just missed one period.)

However the most recent numbers suggest a steadying off of the numbers and Roose admits to being a little disappointed. He believes there are two reasons that the recent figures have not continued to show improvement. “There’s been an over-reliance on what worked last year,” he said. More of the same is not necessarily what is needed, he said.

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 5.49.24 PMIn addition, Roose said that historically teachers had not always taken attendance as seriously as they should. The more accurate counting of absences over the past year or so has had an impact on the numbers, albeit it one the school hopes will be temporary.

“There has to be a shift in the culture for everyone — parents and teachers, as well as students,” adds Roose.

In previous years, Berkeley officials have estimated that the district loses about $100,000 a month when kids do not go to high school, and has lost as much as $2.4 million a year.

Roose said the new positive reinforcement plan is one that has been adopted at many school districts around the country. He even heard of a Florida school that gave a car as a grand prize in an attendance lottery. “We don’t expect that,” he said, “but we would love to have some big-ticket items.”

Read the letter Berkeley High is sending to local businesses asking for help with the scheme.

Donations from members of the community are also welcome. Donations, which are tax-deductible can be made by check to Berkeley Public Education Foundation, with a note on the memo line BUSD Attendance Incentive Fund/BHS. Contact Daniel Roose via email at or call 510.644.6929 if you would like to make a donation or have questions.

Berkeley High Principal talks about attendance scam [04.24.12]
Attendance fraud ring exposed at Berkeley High [04.18.12]
Truancy high but improving at Berkeley High School [12.13.12]

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    Here’s a far better idea from East Palo Alto.

    Bonus: if the student turns out to be an out of district fraudster, we can unenroll them.

  • guest

    welcome back, bruce

  • You are right. I have 2 siblings that were doing poorly in high school, so my father “tossed money” at the problem & put them in a private school that paid the students a cash dividend each semester based on GPA. Their grades did rise, but the impact was not lasting. Their education stopped after high school and they’ve been drifting along the margins of society for 20+ years.

    Whereas I grew up in a highly structured home & lived under the yolk of the “benevolent dictatorship” of my mother, my siblings grew up in an amazingly “permissive” environment in my father’s house (and I’m not afraid to say that it was communal hippie environment). Structure was lacking in my father’s household, and that set the bar very low.

    Incentive structures need to start at home beginning with a culture of structure, expectations, reward, and consequences that is laid down by the parents and is supported by aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, and yes, by society as well.

    We all have “parent issues,” but I am 110% clear on one thing; without the structure and expectations set down in my mother’s household from an early age, I would not have made it through high school, community college, the U.C. system, and a private grad school. I also wouldn’t have the means to own a home and I wouldn’t work at a global consultancy where I have the daily opportunity to shape the course of business in IT firms around the world.

    Structure & discipline first, that leads to life long rewards. Simply showing up and expecting a reward and pat on the back…in the real world, that’s what gets you fired!

    BHS is sending the wrong message.

  • fantastic, outstanding points!

  • Bringing the classroom instruction down to the lowest common denominator is the best way for the USA to win the race to the bottom in a global economy. Any school that doesn’t recognize that fact, isn’t worthy of the property tax dollars I’m paying into the system.

  • Extra help in my day was called “remedial English & Math.” When did that definition change? Extra help is not mixing advanced and under-performing students. That is called “lowest common denominator” instruction. Separate those in need & provide them with remedial instruction. That is the “extra help” that a school provides.

  • Guest

    My mother was like that too…we all worship the memory of her loving insistence on civilized behavior and standards.

  • The Sharkey

    Of course you think it’s a good idea. I would too if I was a student at BHS. But just because you like it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for students.

    The last time I checked, BHS had a great big grassy field on the South end of campus. How about putting a roof over part of that and using it as a lunch yard?

  • bgal4


    I would be interested in knowing the answers to more important questions about the long standing truancy/cutting issues than another gimmick.

    1. How reliable is the data, I hear complaints all the time from parents saying they are being contacted and the school’s information is not accurate. Are all teachers consistently reporting attendance in a timely manner? Are teachers correcting for tardies?

    2. Is the school partnering with parents to develop behavior contracts specific to the child?

    My son truant and failing in 2000 is now a PhD student UCB in science.

  • The Sharkey


  • bgal4

    Oh please, threats of fights is an excuse for sending the fights off campus. Taxpayers built the campus green thanks to PTSA leaders pressure, the campus green is underutilized, notice the never used snack shop built to sell sandwiches.

    Logan High is larger than BHS, years ago they closed the campus at lunch.

  • I agree with Sharkey. BHS has so many problems that the school could do with a massive dose of structure imposed by responsible adults. The BS and BHS needs to end.

    Close the campus & if it is too small to have a common lunch period for all of the students, implement a phased lunch period over a 1.5 – 2 hour time frame. Some students eat earlier, others eat later.

  • John Holland

    Cole’s this Saturday?!

  • Twill Monkey

    Double jeez. How about creating a system whereby the parents or other guardians have to participate in their children’s lives? You know, stuff like making sure they’re in school.

  • Twill Monkey

    Actually, Dean Roose should be doing the part of his job that ensures out-of-district, no-interdistrict-transfer students don’t go to BHS. The president of the student body is one, for example. Nice leadership modeling. There is supposed to be home visits, etc., by school officials. Maybe this issue is ignored because so many of those kids are in BIHS and AC, so they raise the stats for the performance index?

  • Nancy

    So true! I feel that we spent so much time and money on kids who don’t want to go to school and completely ignore the students who are smart and want to succeed. Where are the Awards for the High Achievers?

  • Grammar Nanny

    Yolk, yoke. Either way you need to eat a good breakfast to get ahead.