We can’t let them fall through the cracks.

I started writing a completely different blog post for this week, but when I read the news this morning, I knew I had to shift gears. 

CNN featured a story yesterday called “​Teachers and social workers search for students who are ‘missing’ in the pandemic.”

The word “missing” made my heart drop. 

It immediately reminded me of this story, of a young girl from Washington, DC named Relisha Rudd. I heard about her story in 2014, and it broke my heart — at the time, I was a community school coordinator and led our school’s charge for attendance and engagement tracking and interventions. Staff from Relisha’s school tried to track her down, only to find that a man working at the homeless shelter where she was staying had been impersonating her doctor to the school.

She is still missing to this day. 

As a community school coordinator, her story lit a fire under me to do everything I could to make sure that we knew, to the best of our ability, that our kids were safe and able to come to school. 

I have thought of Relisha over the years and find the tragedy of her story to be a call to action for schools, districts, and other youth- and family-serving organizations. 

How can we make sure that no other students fall through the cracks?

When I read the story this morning about the Robla School District in California doing home visits and trying everything they can to find their students “missing” from online school, I had so many thoughts:

Labeling students as “missing” drives home the gravity of the situation our country is in. Families are truly struggling because of the virus and the economy, but honestly, lacking access to the internet, to stable housing, and to consistent work have been challenges for so many families for so long. The fact that things are only getting worse is upsetting and shows us that we have so much work to do. 

Literally going into neighborhoods searching for children is heroic, but also emotionally grueling. I remember the disappointment and worry of having a string of unsuccessful home visits — you gear yourself up for making a difference, only to find that addresses were incorrect or have changed, or worse — you just don’t know where students and families are living. That is scary, and it is emotionally taxing for educators. 

While data tracking can’t help us physically locate a family, it can help us focus our efforts where they are needed most. You may have seen that last week, I released a guide for how to Track Your Engagement Data in 4 Simple Steps. I believe strongly that using simple functions in Excel can help educators pinpoint exactly which students and families need additional support — whether that’s with attendance, engagement, or academics. 

(I know it can work because I’ve seen the impact it has had on my own work in schools!)

So in honor of Relisha and in commitment to the well-being and success of students who may be “missing” from online school today, let’s get tracking. 

To learn more about data tracking, visit my Engage with Excel page or sign up below.