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Attendance Awareness Month and Learning Earnings: An Interview with Adam Pearson

Posted by Deanna Zaucha on September 08, 2016

Over 6 million students were chronically absent in the 2013-2014 school year. Which means that those students missed 15 days or more in a single school year! 

During the month of September, Attendance Awareness Month, many are shedding light on the growing epidemic of student absences. Chalkable has given resources to highlight attendance issues in your classroom, quotes to share on social media to spread awareness, and today we are sharing a solution to introduce at your school. 

TheLearning Earnings Achievement Program combats chronic absenteeism and improves student achievement through an incentive-based program. To fully understand how the program works and how it can positively impact your school, we interviewed one of the innovators behind the Learning Earnings program, Adam Pearson (AP).

Chalkable: Where did the idea for Learning Earnings come from?

AP: To be honest, I had a fifth grade teacher who created a list of things her students needed to do to be successful. She would use McMillan Bucks to award students for meeting those goals throughout the year. As students earned more, they could purchase better items at the end of the year. Overall, it was an economic activity that tied into our curriculum.

But ultimately, I saw and felt how motivated this made students in the classroom and tried to imitate it over 20 years later. Learning Earnings is essentially an adaptation for the 21st century student who loves to use the computer, tablet, or their phone to engage and succeed. We built real-life lessons into the platform to provide a real, tangible experience that students can relate to.

Chalkable: Fascinating! Can you describe how Learning Earnings works?

AP: Learning Earnings gives every educator their own customizable school store, which also comes pre-loaded with thousands of rewards for students to enjoy. Educators must tie those rewards with goals and objectives for students to achieve. These incentives positively reinforce student behavior as they make the effort to reach the goals or objectives set by their educators.

Chalkable: This seems like an easy-to-use platform, but does a whole school need to adopt Learning Earnings before a teacher can use it for their own classrooms?

AP: What I love about Learning Earnings is that it is designed to fit into any instructional model whether it is a school-wide implementation or an individual classroom. The goals and incentives can be school goals, classroom goals, or can be customized down to the student level. The capability to differentiate instruction easily is key to what makes the platform so impactful on student performance whether it is used by a whole district or a single teacher.

Chalkable: Why do you think there is such a strong correlation between positive behavior rewards and attendance?

AP: Over 20 years of research shows that a positive learning environment makes an atmosphere where students want to go to school and learn. I think our platform is a testament to that; the more attractive you make an environment, the more students will show up to participate, engage, and learn.

Chalkable: What are some trends you’ve seen in attendance over the past decade? How does Learning Earnings (or PBS) impact these trends?

AP: Attendance is a fundamental first step in educating our students. We have seen once a student falls into the habit of being chronically absent that it is very difficult to intervene and reverse the trend. Therefore, it is critical to instill in a student to attend school regularly as early as possible. Using Learning Earnings helps incentivize the student to naturally make going to school part of their routine.

Chalkable: What is the impact on the local community when it starts to see a rise in chronic absenteeism in a particular region? How have you seen LE (or PBS) influence this once implemented?

AP: Chronic absenteeism impacts all facets of the community. Students who consistently attend school are better prepared to enter the workforce and contribute back to the community as a whole.

Learning Earnings is designed to bring the whole community together for attendance initiatives from which everybody can benefit. That includes not only the educators who see the kids every day; but it includes the lunch room staff, the bus drivers, and community leaders. Once kids see their whole community is engaged, it provides a positive climate that is critical to their success in all of their programs at school.

We have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from communities who use Learning Earnings. Everyone from restaurants providing discounts to retailers providing gift cards, have contributed to the Learning Earnings rewards program. It’s awesome!

Chalkable: What are some of the most creative ways you’ve seen teachers or principals reward students?

AP: I love seeing individuals from all levels across a district can get involved in rewarding their students. A couple of my favorites include a superintendent offering a special one-on-one brunch and a permit to use an outlet to charge a phone in class!

Chalkable: Are there any insider tips for using Learning Earnings you could share with the educators who may read this interview?

AP: The system is pretty intuitive, and what you see is what you get. But the secret to success is implementation. If you can get one teacher participating –great! But, if you can get an entire district to participate, you will see just how much that leadership will resonate down to the student level to make the difference in attendance you truly want to see.

Want to learn more about Learning Earnings?

Learn More About Learning Earnings

Topics: Positive Reinforcement, K-12 Education, Education Technology

Deanna Zaucha

Written by Deanna Zaucha

Deanna Zaucha is the Content Marketing Specialist at Chalkable, and also manages their social media presence. In her free time, she can be found on the dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with the latest trends in education, marketing, and technology. Read more from Deanna on Twitter.