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School No. 4's secret: Pizza

Rochester, N.Y. -- In a school district where 3,000 students are absent on a given day, high attendance is worthy of notice.

Having students here every day is key, said Kimberly Winfrey, a teacher at George Mather Forbes School No. 4.

In 2011-12, School No. 4 was considered one of the four worst schools by attendance and became a target school for the following academic year.

As of Thursday, its attendance record is 95 percent on the academic year, according to district leaders.

Two efforts are receiving credit for this boost. The first is a long-standing parent outreach plan carried out by parent liaison Johnnita Bennett. An incentive program was recently introduced that rewards student groups each month if they have the best record in their sections. Pizza, popcorn, a movie and a day away from learning are the potential rewards.

Parents are engaged through gift certificates that are given to a parent of a student within the winning groups.

Its really important to win," said fifth grader Jaali Williams. "I like the movies (and) I like the popcorn."

At the district level, students are classified under a new system that labels them chronically absent.

Those students considered chronically absent have missed school at least 10 percent of the time.

As a whole, 26.3 percent of students were chronically absent as of mid-February.

Elementary schools with the highest rates of chronic absenteeism are School No. 28, 5, 50 and 20, according to an analysis provided by the district.

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Washington Times