Attendance Works News

August 15th, 2016

Families in Schools Engages Parents with Its Attendance Toolkit

Parents in every city in the U.S. want their children to do well in school but many don’t fully understand the connection between chronic absence and a student’s academic achievement. To address this discrepancy, Families In Schools (FIS) has created a toolkit to engage parents in improving attendance for students.

The Importance of Attendance Toolkit: Facilitator’s Guide was developed to provide school and agency staff with best practices and strategies for engaging parents. The toolkit is centered on staff facilitated workshops with parents, as short as 10 minutes or as long as 45 minutes. The goal of a workshop is to help parents develop a better understanding of how chronic absence can impact a child’s achievement, by identifying who is affected by poor attendance in the early grades, by learning how attendance affects a child’s ability to read at grade level, and enabling parents to explore strategies for ensuring or improving a child’s attendance.

FIS supports strong family-school partnerships through its many programs aimed at parent engagement for families. FIS provides programs and professional development to help build skills, knowledge and the confidence of both parents and school or agency staff on how to work together to support student achievement.

The organization also partners with the Campaign For Grade Level Reading on programs to encourage students and families to read together and to read more often. All of the FIS programming targets low-income and underserved communities with the understanding that access to quality education continues to be the gateway out of poverty.

“We recognize parents as having assets, who come to the table with set of knowledge and a set of skills and expertise around their own child. Parents are the child’s first and foremost teacher. So all of our curriculum is centered around accessing what the parent already knows and going from there,” said Tina Ochoa, Curriculum & Professional Development Manager with FIS. “We are assuming that parents understand that attendance is important but they may not understand how crucial it is to student achievement. Our workshop modules enable a partnership between parents and staff and help parents to dig deeper into the consequences of poor attendance.”

The toolkit was developed in partnership with Attendance Works. FIS developed some interactive activities around content found on the Attendance Works’ website, and revised it slightly so it is more relevant for families across the state. The two organizations co-created it as a Facilitator’s Guide to ensure that preparing for and implementing the modules is as easy as possible.

For each module, the guide includes recommended seating arrangements, a short list of materials needed, and interactive exercises to promote discussion between the facilitator (or staff) and the parents. The step-by-step design provides the facilitator with all of the necessary information, tips, worksheets and materials for each module.

Last fall, FIS sponsored a session in Los Angeles with 20 participants who returned to their school or agency and implemented the module with their prospective parents. The feedback about the toolkit was completely positive, including comments about the materials, varied module times, interactive exercises and written questions.

After the session one participant wrote, “The most useful part was learning to support the parents in recognizing their role [in improving student attendance].”

To learn more about The Importance of Attendance Toolkit: Facilitator’s Guide, email Families In Schools at communications@familiesinschools.org.

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August 8th, 2016

MENTOR’s New Toolkit Highlights Link with Attendance

Quality mentoring can have a significant impact on improving school attendance and student success. Recognizing this, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, has released a promotional toolkit with mentoring and attendance specific social media messages. Download the toolkit here.

MENTOR’s The Mentoring Effect report shows that mentoring has a significant impact on attendance and academic achievement. The report demonstrates that:

  • Quality mentoring is proven to increase attendance by reducing the likelihood of students skipping class.
  • Students who faced many challenges to graduation, including attendance, but who had a mentor were more likely to aspire to go to college, participate in sports and activities, and volunteer in their communities.
  • Mentors can help foster and encourage a positive academic future by stressing the importance of attendance.

“Chronic absenteeism offers that warning sign of disconnection and calls us to intervene with mentoring and consistent adults who can partner with school and home to provide the support, guidance, and encouragement proven to drive greater attendance and help get kids back on track. We are proud to be an Attendance Awareness Month Convening Partner and look forward to amplifying this critical message during Mentoring In Real Life Week this September,” says David Shapiro, MENTOR CEO and President.

Throughout the month, and especially during the Mentoring In Real Life Attendance Week September 19-25, MENTOR is inviting mentoring programs, youth serving organizations, schools and all campaign partners to help amplify this message on social media. Remember to include #schooleveryday and #MentorIRL in every post!

The toolkit provides sample messages such as:

  • Tweets
  • Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin posts
  • Digital images

And don’t forget to join us for the Mentoring In Real Life Attendance Week Twitter chat on Wednesday, September 21 at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT!

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July 26th, 2016

A Top Pick for ESSA School Quality, Student Success Indicator

It’s probably no surprise that Attendance Works believes that chronic absence is one of the very best indicators a state could choose as its school quality and student success measure under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). There are a number of reasons why.

Let’s start with the criteria that the U.S. Department of Education has established for each and every indicator a state might wish to include in its ESSA accountability rubric. Indicators must:

  1. Be applicable to every student;
  2. Be capable of being disaggregated by special education and English language learner status, as well as by poverty, race/ethnicity, gender, and school level;
  3. Be measured the same way across the state (comparable);
  4. Meaningfully distinguish performance levels among schools;
  5. Have evidence to show that they measure what they say they are measuring (validity);
  6. Have evidence that results are likely to be the same if the indicator were measured again (reliability);
  7. Be research-based; and,
  8. Have a proven impact on academic achievement.

While there are many measures a state might choose, very few actually meet all of these requirements. Chronic absence, however, does.

Next, let’s look at these eight requirements, one at a time.

First, all enrolled students are included in attendance counts; there are no students who are excluded. Second, chronic absence rates can be disaggregated, computed and reported for all subgroups of students in a school, district or state. Third, states already have protocols governing student attendance taking and reporting and must also track and report chronic absence to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Hence, measures of chronic absence are comparable or about to become comparable across states (and nationally). Fourth, chronic absence levels vary substantially among schools. These variations are not random; they represent meaningful differences in student engagement, achievement and success. In other words, they differentiate between performance of schools.

Fifth, while we can debate whether a given standardized test truly measures a student’s subject matter mastery, a similar debate about measure validity does not apply to chronic absence. Test scores are measures of test success, which can be strongly or weakly related to subject matter mastery. Chronic absence, on the other hand, measures the number of days of school missed. Sixth, counting errors aside, taking attendance and computing chronic absence repeatedly will yield the same result. Finally, (seventh and eighth), there is more than enough information to make the case that attendance has a research base and proven links to academic achievement. Just browse the research on this website if you are not convinced.

As a measure, chronic absence has additional benefits. Because districts already collect attendance and chronic absence data, the financial and administrative costs to states and districts of using this measure will be relatively low. The same is not true for states that choose to adopt a measure that has to be developed, introduced to districts and schools, and supported until it is implemented. In addition, given the tight timeline states are on to complete plans and begin monitoring school performance, the fact that chronic absence is ready-to-go is a significant plus.

The final and, perhaps one of the most significant advantages of choosing chronic absence as a measure of school quality and student success is that parents, communities, policymakers, other stakeholders and students are beginning to understand that missing too much school is not a path to success. The common sense, easily understood nature of chronic absence augments the already considerable power of this simple measure.

We are developing a brief to provide information to state leaders and advocates about how chronic absence can enhance ESSA plans and school improvement. Send your comments via email to Sue Fothergill, Sue@attendanceworks.org, and let us know:

• Is chronic absence being considered by your state for the school quality and student success measure?
• What do you see as its benefits and drawbacks?
• What supports, evidence, and research do you need to make the case for using chronic absence?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Blog post by Jane Sundius, Senior Fellow

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