October 24th, 2016

New Head Start Standards Require Attention to Chronic Absence

High quality preschool programs prepare children to enter kindergarten with school readiness skills, and are an ideal time to instill strong attendance habits in children and families. The recently released Head Start Performance Standards include a new provision that requires Head Start programs to address chronic absence.

The new provisions will move Head Start programs beyond treating attendance simply as a matter of compliance to using data to identify when absences are undercutting a child’s opportunity to learn. The new standards introduce the term chronic absence, or missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. This information can help Head Start staff recognize and address cumulative absences spread over time that may have gone unnoticed in the past.

The requirements make it clear that agencies must begin to track children’s individual attendance, engage parents in understanding the relationship between attendance and success in school, and develop local strategies that encourage positive attendance habits from the outset of schooling. The Attendance Works’ toolkit,  Early and Often: Showing Up in Preschool Matters provides a wealth of strategy suggestions, downloadable materials and research to help Head Start programs implement these concepts.

Collecting, analyzing and using data to target action is central to every successful chronic absence strategy. To expand access to such data, Attendance Works is developing an excel-based Preschool Attendance Tracking Tool (PATT) and encouraging major Head Start data providers to integrate chronic absence reports included in the PATT directly into their data systems.

COPA, a technology provider for Head Start programs, has been the fastest to respond and has already integrated chronic absence reports into its system. COPA report 241 compiles the data necessary to track chronic absence, and report 241 S provides statistical analysis that is required by Head Start and recommended in the PATT. The two reports are connected so agencies can identify how many and which children are moderately chronically absent (absent 10 to 19 percent of the time) or severely chronically (absent more than 20 percent) by classroom and site.

Child Plus, another technology provider for Head Start programs, has indicated it will create an opportunity at its annual conference October 24-27 for its users to vote, by applause, on whether Child Plus should add in new chronic absence data into its regular reports.

In January 2017, Attendance Works will release our Preschool Attendance Tracking Tool (PATT) along with a manual describing how to use it in conjunction with any data management software. If you are interested in registering for access to the tool once the PATT is available, please email info@attendanceworks.org.

We applaud the new regulations and congratulate the Office of Head Start for its thoughtful attention to chronic absence. “These standards recognize that helping young children and their families develop the habit of daily attendance and overcome barriers to getting to class lays a strong foundation for student achievement. The focus of the new standards on both individual student attendance and family engagement improves the odds that children will start kindergarten with attendance habits that will serve them well throughout their education,” said Hedy Chang, Attendance Works executive director.

Please email info@attendanceworks.org if you would like to register for access to the Preschool Attendance Tracking Tool (PATT) tool once it is available.

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