If you are in a position to engage the full community in your attendance campaign, the broader approach can amplify your efforts. If possible, work with a cross-sector coalition to advance your plans. Whether you have a coalition or not, find ways to put tools in the hands of other agencies and organizations.
1. Mobilize a Community Coalition
– Determine who can take on the issue. If your community is participating in an existing effort focused on academic achievement or dropout prevention, such as Campaign for Grade-Level Reading or Grad Nation, tap the coalition in place to engage the community in improving attendance. All the right players might already be involved, or the coalition could consider using attendance as a way to engage additional partners.
– Reach out to other existing coalitions. Networks already organized to reform schools, promote literacy, reduce dropout rates, address health needs and improve communities might offer enthusiastic partnership and leadership around addressing chronic absence. If your districts or any schools are tracking early warning indicators, they’re already paying attention to attendance.
– If no coalition exists to take on this issue, then consider launching your own; convene community partners who can help schools improve attendance.
– Hold a meeting to discuss ideas and solicit buy-in of the coalition. Use these materials and reports:
- Sample meeting agenda
- Key Messages
- Attendance Works video
- Sample PowerPoint that can be tailored for local communities
- The Facts about Chronic Absence
- Research summary on chronic absence
- Research summary on early grade attendance
- Attendance and Early Literacy brief
- The Importance of Being in School: A report detailing the prevalence of chronic absence
- Present, Engaged and Accounted For: Research documenting the effects of early chronic absence
Ideally you would provide data on the number and percent of chronically absent students in your community. If your district has not calculated this, then consider registering for these tools.
2. Create locally tailored schools and community partners toolkit
– Attendance Works has developed a template with handouts, activities and local resources that can be easily adapted to help schools and local partners reduce absenteeism. These handouts include resources sheets that let parents know where to find help with health, transportation and other barriers keeping their children from attending school regularly. Two California districts, Oakland and Solano County, have adapted Attendance Works materials for local audiences.
- Template toolkit that communities can tailor
- Local toolkit from Oakland: “Every Day Counts”
- Web-based toolkit from Solano County: “Every Minute Matters”
– Los Angeles and New York City have developed toolkits to guide principals and teachers working to improve chronic absence.
– New York City developed a toolkit for community organizations and faith-based groups.
- In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Kent School Services Network brings together school districts; funders; the United Way; and county health, mental health and social services agencies to help track chronic absence and intervene with the students, schools and communities most affected. Schools involved have seen absenteeism drop and test scores rise.
- In Indianapolis, the Indiana Partnerships Center launched a Missing Matters campaign, with strategies ranging from billboards to legislative outreach. The center dedicated an issue of its newsletter to chronic absenteeism.
- In Omaha, an organization called The Attendance Collaborative brings together business, civic and political leaders with the University of Nebraska at Omaha to work with schools in Douglas and Sarpy Counties to improve attendance through school and community partnerships.