Whirlpool Extends Landmark Care Counts Program

Some five years ago, Whirlpool innovators and researchers discovered something that not very many people probably ever really considered. They discovered that education has a laundry problem. But, they elected to get involved rather than stand on the sidelines.

In fact, ever since discovering education’s laundry problem, the Whirlpool brand has been fighting back, and this year they’re expanding their outreach.

Whirlpool’s research showed that, according to teachers nationwide, one in five students struggle with access to clean clothes, leading students to miss school. Students who miss school are seven times more likely to drop out.

In the midst of Attendance Awareness Month here in September, and as chronic absenteeism, a hidden educational crisis, is top of mind, Whirlpool is picking up the pace in its quest to prevent kids from missing school by removing one small but important barrier to attendance – access to clean clothes.

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Embarking on its fifth year, the Care Counts laundry program by Whirlpool has grown to support students in need across 18 cities and 82 schools around the country – providing access to clean clothes for more than 38,000 students. This year, for the first time, Care Counts is inviting a number of qualified schools nationwide to apply for a laundry pair to bring this program to even more students.

Chelsey Whitehead is Senior Brand Manager for Whirlpool in Benton Harbor. She says, “We hope to make even more progress by expanding the program well beyond the footprint of our pilot program, meaning more students will have access to clean clothes in more schools across the country.” Whitehead reports, “New data this year continues to show the program has contributed to decreases in chronic absenteeism, and we are just getting started.”

In analyzing the most recent data from the 2018 – 2019 school year, Whirlpool found more promising results:

  • Participating high-risk elementary school students attended more than one more day of school per month during the program, projecting to 11 more days per year. Those 11 extra days in school for students can make the difference between getting back on track academically and falling significantly behind classmates.
  • The program contributed to increased attendance rates with three out of four high-risk elementary school participants missing less school. Missing more than one day of school a month can mean missing the lesson on learning how to count with classmates or how to read basic sentences.
  • Over two-thirds of participating elementary school students at risk for chronic absenteeism had an increase in their grades during the program.

Dr. Richard Rende, Ph.D. says, “We know every day counts. Getting students back in the classroom can make the difference between staying on course with their academic performance, or falling behind in a significant way.” He adds, “Since its inception, the program has contributed to decreases in chronic absenteeism and increases in grades and levels of self-esteem in at-risk students. The data indicates substantial promise for the program and at-risk students nationwide.”

Whirlpool is committed to continuing steady growth of the brand-led program. New this year, Whirlpool is offering a select number of qualified schools the opportunity to apply for a below cost laundry pair to implement the program themselves. With research over the years showing the program has the greatest impact on high-risk elementary school students, the nationwide expansion will focus on qualified Title I elementary schools. Whirlpool is partnering with  CSC Serviceworks, an industry leader in installation and service, to help more schools combat one aspect of the complex issue of chronic absenteeism with a simple solution – laundry.

Jo Carrigan is Principal of Doull Elementary in Denver. She says, “This program is such an easy way to help solve a very difficult problem in our schools,” adding, “We’ve been lucky enough to be a part of the program to see the results firsthand, and I’m so happy that the program is opening applications because there are countless schools not just here in Denver – but all over the country that will benefit. Our new washer and dryer are an amazing resource for our students.”

With the help of Richard Rende, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist, researcher and educator — Whirlpool collects and analyzes anonymized laundry and school attendance data to prove that access to clean clothes improves attendance and more.

The program is pivoting this 2019 – 2020 academic year to study the longitudinal impact of clean clothes on educational development. To keep a pulse on the effectiveness of the program, new regions involved in the collection of anonymous laundry, attendance and grades data include:

  • Cleveland
  • Philadelphia
  • Las Vegas Valley
  • Miami
  • Phoenix

Whirlpool works with Teach For America to identify these qualified and at-need schools.

Dr. Rende says, “We know that the Care Counts laundry program by Whirlpool has a massive ripple effect on positive markers, like student participation and motivation in school. By expanding the program with a longitudinal study and recruitment of more schools, we have the opportunity to learn even more.”

The first phase of the pilot study in 2015-2016 proved the program is feasible and sustainable for schools. A second phase from 2016-2019 observed notable increases in attendance after implementation of the program for elementary and middle school students at risk for chronic and problematic levels of absenteeism.

Whirlpool’s Whitehead says, “It’s heartbreaking to know how many students struggle with something as basic as clean clothes. Even worse is to hear how these kids feel when that happens – they want to be invisible.” She concludes, “When we found out that dirty clothes are one of the leading causes of student absences nationwide, we were compelled to find a way to help and fight back. It’s working – attendance is rising.”

To learn more or nominate a school, click the link below:


The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of Whirlpool Corporation.