PCSP: Data Spotlight

Some Petersburg City + Schools Parternership Newsletters will include data and highlights from various areas associated with PCSP.


Resilience is often described as the ability to bounce back from a challenge. But what makes someone resilient? How do people become “springy” enough to bounce—in any direction—instead of sticking to the pavement? The “stuff” of resilience involves three elements: positive relationships, self-regulation and an ability to act meaningfully. Here are a couple of frameworks used frequently to think about how to build and measure resilience in young people:

When we focus on the elements that make students “springy”, we improve the conditions for success. Students who receive explicit instruction in Social Emotional Learning (e.g. CASEL’s framework) improve their academic performance, gain social and emotional skills (self-awareness) and show marked improvement in their attitudes and behavior.

Keep in mind that not only can we measure the “stuff” of individual resilience, but we can also measure elements that foster community resilience using frameworks like the 100 Resilient Cities Framework and the Neighborhood Resilience Project.

As individuals and communities have access to these building blocks of resilience, they navigate the world with confidence and flexibility and become more capable, connected, self-aware and self-sufficient.  So although it requires thoughtfulness and intentionality to measure an idea like resilience, youth and human service organizations must embed the “stuff” of it into the practices, policies and measurement systems in order to ensure successful and thriving students, clients and communities.

In order to educate, inform and move us to action, each quarterly newsletter will offer a spotlight on data related to our priorities. As we consider the beginning of the school year, it is only appropriate that we look at attendance and chronic absenteeism.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, chronic absenteeism is when a student misses 10% or more of scheduled school days. This equates to missing 18 days in one school year, or an average of two days per month, leading to loss of learning and a decrease in student success. According to the Virginia Department of Education’s school quality report, during the 2018-2019 school year, 24.3% of Petersburg City Public School students were chronically absent. United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg breaks this number down even further, reporting that 15.5% of elementary students were chronically absent, while this rate grows to 22.5% of middle school students and 44.5% of high school students.

When we look at the data broken out by age, we begin to ask different questions about how, as community partners, we can support student attendance in Petersburg. Although these averages are high across the district, there is a sizable disparity between the attendance of younger students and that of older students. If we dig deeper into the reasons for these disparities, we might find varying causes of absenteeism and, resultingly, vastly different strategies for supporting students, or families of students, of differing ages.

In response to the needs we see in the data, it is important for partners across Petersburg to join the school system in their attendance strategies when asked to do so. But it is even more vital that community partners, local government, businesses and faith communities take it upon themselves to adopt and implement strategies, policies and communications that will support student attendance across our community, further strengthening the message of our schools that students need to be in school (virtually or in-person) every day.

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