Use Data for Intervention and Support
While positive relationships and effective messaging lay a strong foundation for preventing absences, they may not always be enough. Some students, especially those who are chronically absent, may need a higher level of intervention. Research shows that the best predictor of chronic absence is a history of poor attendance during the prior school year. A study in Baltimore finds that students who miss 10 percent or more of the current school year, starting in the first month of school, also are at risk of chronic absence.
The Attendance Institute and the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research’s (CCSR) webinar shares highlights from three important reports on attendance at all grade levels. Download the slides.
The good news is that chronic absence can be turned around if educators use attendance data to identify and connect at-risk students — as early as possible — to positive, engaging supports that address barriers, healing and resilience and motivate them to attend school. This is especially true if the process of offering early interventions also invests in strong, consistent relationships that help instill and strengthen faith among students and families that educators are a reliable, trusted source of support. While strong relationships are helpful for all families, they are arguably even more essential for working with children and family members who have experienced or witnessed some form of trauma or violence. As a result of their experiences, these children are at high risk of missing significant amounts of school. In this case, the presence of positive, stable, nurturing relationships between staff and students as well as their families is in and of itself a protective factor and form of intervention.
Educators, especially those working at the school level, play a critical role in ensuring that early intervention occurs, ideally before a student has missed so much school they require costly remediation. Educators — such as classroom teachers, resource teachers, paraprofessionals and other school staff such as nurses, counselors, school secretaries, food service staff and gardeners — who have frequent, on-going contact with students are well positioned to reach out and talk with students, and sometimes their families, as soon as absences begin to add up. In addition, school staff can help connect students and families to relevant resources and supports available in the school or community. For system-involved youth, educators can collaborate with staff from child welfare and/or probation agencies to better support students.
Here are four strategies educators can use with data to identify and connect at-risk students to supports and motivate them to attend school.
Watch and see how one teacher who noticed a troubled student brought in others to help.
Video courtesy of Changing Minds, a campaign launched by Futures Without Violence in partnership with the US Department of Justice.
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Section D. Advocate for a school-wide approach