Attendance Works News
May 20th, 2013
Parent and family engagement is a crucial to any effective, comprehensive approach to reducing chronic absence. Parents, especially in the early grades, play a key role in making sure their children get to school on time every day. But too many parents don’t realize how quickly absences — excused and unexcused — translate into academic trouble. “Even though I went to college, I didn’t know that missing 18 days or just two days a month—even in kindergarten—could put my son behind academically,” explained one California parent, Olga Nunez.
To reach parents, Attendance Works has developed a new toolkit: Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence.
Created with the help of practitioners who have worked successfully with families to improve attendance, this free toolkit is filled with ideas, activities and materials that you can use to spark conversations with parents about how good attendance can help them fulfill their dreams and aspirations for their children’s futures. It contains:
- Research showing a positive relationship between parent involvement and attendance as well as the results of new studies examining parents’ attitudes about school absences and their implications for messaging and action.
- Key Principles for engaging parents on attendance.
- Materials to share with parents about the importance of good attendance
- Interactive Exercises to spark awareness, conversation and action with groups of parents about the consequences of poor attendance on their children’s futures.
Beyond making good attendance a priority, parents can also alert schools and community agencies to barriers that keep kids from attending class, ask for and monitor data on chronic absence and demand action to address systemic barriers that may be causing large numbers of students to miss too much school. We’ll be in San Antonio this week, sharing our tools and ideas at a parent engagement summit sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. We’ll also be participating in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Department of Education officials tonight (Tuesday 5/21) about the value of family and community partnerships to improve schools. To watch the event on live stream, click here.
Take advantage of this free, new resource for engaging parents in your community, click here.
If you’re getting involved in Attendance Awareness Month this September, register for our next webinar on June 7 at 1 p.m. ET. Click here.
May 16th, 2013
Join us at 1-2:15 p.m. Eastern, 10-11:15 a.m. Pacific:
Children who go to school every day are winners. They benefit by learning more and developing the habit of regular attendance that will help them succeed when they go to work. Yet, across the country, as many as 7.5 million school-age children were chronically absent.
What can you do to help? Join us as we hear from several local communities about what they are doing to rally their communities to send the message that going to school every day matters for success in school and in life. They will share how they are enlisting a broad range of stakeholders and their plans for the fall. In addition, representatives from Attendance Works will share the latest resources for launching Attendance Awareness Month, including ideas for hosting an “Attendance House Party.”
If you can’t join us for our webinar, you can get started with our Count Us In! toolkit released last month that can help you start planning activities in your community. The toolkit includes:
- An explanation of the importance of attendance and chronic absence
- Ideas for community partners & coalitions
- Proclamations, press releases & media tools
- Suggestions for incentives, contests & events
- Advice for tracking data to identify & intervene with students
May 8th, 2013
The first time Chicago Tribune reporter David Jackson requested information on attendance in Chicago Public Schools was 1999. He had talked to a juvenile court judge who told him about the surprisingly high truancy rates among young offenders. Jackson filed a Freedom of Information request with the school district, but it was denied on privacy grounds, even though he asked that names be redacted. The case went to court, which upheld the district’s decision.
Later, during a fellowship at Harvard, Jackson requested the data as a researcher. The school district complied but with firm restrictions on how he could use it. He found he couldn’t publish what he wanted in the paper. Finally, more than a decade after the first request, a data came with no restrictions. The result was a remarkable series of stories by Jackson and his reporting partner Gary Marx that outlined the extent of absenteeism in Chicago’s elementary schools and the connections that link absenteeism, poverty, disabilities and jail time.
The series by Jackson and Marx, The Empty Desk Epidemic, received a first prize for investigative reporting from the Education Writers Association on Saturday. (Interestingly the second place prize went to the Columbus Dispatch for a series that documented how school administrators were falsifying attendance records to make their schools look better.)
The Chicago Tribune series also received the Freedom of Information medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. And it was the awarded the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, an honor given by Hunter College in New York City for reporting that exposes widespread injustice and examines possible reforms.
“Absenteeism data is a basic accountability tool that can tell you how a school district is doing,” Jackson told a room full of reporters at the Education Writers Association conference in Palo Alto, Calif.
Among their findings were:
- Nearly 32,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade — or roughly 1 in 8 — missed four weeks or more of class during the 2010-11 school year.
- About 42 percent of K-8 students with an emotional disability missed four weeks of classes, compared with 12 percent of students without a disability.
- About 74 percent of the 182 boys and young men recently locked up in Illinois’ three medium-security youth prisons were labeled chronic truants. Nearly 60 percent couldn’t even read at the third-grade level when they were booked in.
- Some students simply vanished from school with no record of them attending at all. One girl who was forced to stay home to babysit her younger siblings missed five years of school.
Jackson and Marx combined their data analysis with compelling stories of students lost in the system and good examples beyond Chicago of communities taking action to reduce absences. Their series took months of reporting, but other reporters are finding that school districts have compiled chronic absence data and can share not only attendance information but also examples of progress happening in schools that are taking attendance seriously.