How Major League Soccer Is Promoting Attendance In Columbus Schools

Columbus schools have partnered with the city's major league soccer team, The Columbus Crew, to initiate the Stay in the Game! Network, sending players into schools to entice attendance.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

To Increase Attendance, Schools Are Incentivizing Students With Prizes, Like A New Car

Chronic absenteeism is plaguing public schools across the nation. The Columbus City Schools have experienced this at such high levels that more than half of students are missing weeks of school. In order to encourage students and their families to ensure that kids get to school everyday, the district has partnered with the city’s major league soccer team to promote showing up and getting educated

During the 2020-2021 school year these Columbus schools reached a 74% chronic absenteeism rate. That means that nearly three-fourths of students missed 15 days or more of class throughout the year. Last year it was reduced to just over 65% of students but this is still a major issue. 

Now Columbus schools are working to reinvigorate students’ educational aspirations by drawing some positive attention to coming to school. Campuses like Columbus City’s Sullivant Elementary School are joining the Stay in the Game! Network. This state-hosted initiative has partnered with sports teams like the major league soccer team, the Columbus Crew. 

The Crew has welcomed students on their way to class with energetic cheers and applause. High-fives and fist-bumps have been dished out to remind children that school is much like sports training. While it may not be as physical, training the mind to think and learn is a long-game task that requires practice, dedication, and hard work. 

Both team mascots are present at these greeting events. The hope is that these acts of positive reinforcement will get students excited about learning and give parents confidence in the Columbus school system. School officials hope this will lower chronic absenteeism and eventually end it altogether. 

Children who do not regularly attend class, or miss large portions of school work are more likely to fall behind, struggle with their work, and be distracted when in the classroom. While the pandemic did not aid the situation, a more disturbing pattern has likely contributed to this problem. Columbus City School teachers have been chronically absent for years, such as in 2019, when one-third of educators were absent more often than their students. 

In addition, these teachers recently went on strike the day before the 2022-2023 school year was supposed to begin. Though most communities agree that educators deserve more pay and benefits, the Columbus school teachers were demanding smaller class sizes, more P.E. teachers, and full-time music and art programs as public schools are struggling through a massive teacher shortage and enrollment drops. This comes as the state is lacking in reading and math proficiency and has done so since at least 2018.

In other areas, back-to-school carnivals and events have been hosted to draw interest back to these public institutions. Some have even funded these programs with COVID relief money. While these events have been known to offer positive responses in the past it is uncertain whether they will combat current issues due to political differences between parents and school officials. 

Columbus schools

For now, the Columbus schools are focused on providing a welcoming atmosphere. The Columbus Crew and Stay in the Game! Network are helping to encourage childhood education and hosting the largest initiative of this school year. How families respond will determine the success of this program and that of the students involved.