- Strategies for Reducing Chronic Absence
School communities can send a clear message that going to school every day is a priority by providing regular recognition and rewards to students and families who have good and improved attendance. Keep in mind that the goal is not to focus on perfect attendance since the children who struggle the most will soon be left out of such awards.
- Attendance Works Tips for Incentives
- New York City Incentive Resources
- Template for Attendance Certificate
- Attendance Certificate from Oakland, Calif.
- Sponsor a poster contest: View sample Posters from Baltimore
- Sponsor a video contest: Read Tips for Video Contests
- Get involved with Get Schooled, a nonprofit that uses rock stars and celebrities to help reduce dropout rates in secondary schools.
Attendance improves when a school community offers a warm and welcoming environment that engages students and families and offers enriching learning opportunities. A key component of the engagement is helping families learn about the positive impact of good attendance and the negative effects of chronic absenteeism on realizing their hopes and dreams for their children. Parents may not realize that even excused absences can, if they accumulate, cause their children to fall behind and that building the habit of attendance in the early grades can influence their children’s chances of graduating from high school.
Tools for Teachers and Principals
- Parent Engagement Toolkit
- Talking Points for Interacting with Families
- Tips for Outreach Before the First Day of School
- Tips on One-on-One Meetings
- Sample Back-to-School Letters
- Script for Back-to-School Robocalls
- Tips for contacting hard-to-reach parents
- Sample student survey
- Get Schooled Attendance Counts Calculator
- Interactive parent exercises
Handouts for Parents
For Elementary School Parents:
- Info Graphic on Attendance in the Early Grades
- Info Graphic on Attendance in the Early Grades (Spanish)
- Elementary school handout
- Elementary school handout in Spanish
- Elementary school handout in Chinese
- Elementary school handout (with policy tips)
- Elementary school handout in Spanish (with policy tips)
- Pledge Cards for Parents
- Pledge Card for Parents (Spanish)
For Parents with Children in Middle and High School:
- Middle/high school flyer (1 page)
- Middle/high school flyer in Spanish (1 page)
- Middle/high school flyer (2 pages with policy tips)
- Middle/high school flyer in Spanish (2 pages with policy tips)
Tips for Back to School Assemblies
- Talking points for principals and teachers addressing students
- Examples of student messaging
- Tips for Developing Incentives
The best way to identify students with poor attendance is to calculate the data that schools are already collecting. In addition to looking at school-wide averages, as most schools do, shift the data to see how many students are missing 10 percent of the school year. Attendance Works has created free data tools–the DATT and the SATT–to examine patterns and identify which students are at risk due to poor attendance.
- How to Conduct a Successful Data Analysis
- DATT and SATT Handout
- To download the tools and handbooks, please register here.
- For questions about the tools, email email@example.com
If you can’t look at chronic absence, average daily attendance (ADA) numbers can provide some direction. Generally, schools with ADA rates higher than 97 percent have little trouble with chronic absence, while those with rates below 93 percent almost always have too many students missing too many days. At schools with 95 percent ADA, chronic absence rates can vary dramatically.
- Chronic Elementary Absenteeism: A Problem Hidden in Plain Sight, a report on the link between ADA and chronic absence
- New York State Handout: Risk of Chronic Absenteeism Among New York Students
Once you’ve analyzed your attendance data, each school should have a team in place that meets regularly to review the school’s attendance data and coordinate efforts to reduce chronic absence.
- Tips for an effective attendance team
- New York City Principal’s Handbook on attendance teams
- Tips for understanding contributing factors
- Handout on breaking barriers to attendance
Perhaps the most critical strategy is using data to trigger early caring outreach to families and students who are already missing too many days of school. Such outreach is best carried out by an adult who has a strong relationship with the family. Outreach is essential for identifying barriers to attendance — hunger, health, shelter, transportation or other challenges — and the supports or resources that can help improve attendance.
- New York City Principals’ Handbook on Success Mentors
- Strategies for leveraging volunteers and national service
- Sample confidentiality form for community-based organizations
- Sample confidentiality form for mentors
- City Year Student Engagement Toolkit
- RAMP Mentoring Sheet
- MENTOR toolkit for program managers
- MENTOR tips for individuals
- Check & Connect toolkit
- Check & Connect monitoring form
If large numbers of students are affected by chronic absence, that suggests some type of systemic barrier or barriers are at play. Identifying the barriers to attendance can indicate the appropriate solutions, whether that involves establishing uniform closets, improving access to health care, launching walking school buses, providing tutoring, offering mentoring, developing morning or afterschool care and other approaches.
Identifying Contributing Factors:
- Understanding the Factors Contributing to Chronic Absence in Your School
- Handout on Breaking Barriers to Attendance
Addressing Common Challenges
How Sick is Too Sick? Alameda County, Calif., created this chart helping parents decide when their children are too sick for school.
Safe Routes to Schools: Some students miss school because of neighborhood violence or dangerous intersections in route to the campus. Schools and communities have started creating. “Walking School Buses” and other approaches to keep kids safe.
Breakfast in the Classroom: Students who eat breakfast at school attend an average 1.5 more days of school every year. When offered in the classroom, breakfast can be an opportunity to bond with the teacher and get kids ready for class.
Afterschool Programs:Research shows that good afterschool programs can improve school-day attendance. Ensure that schools with high chronic absence rates have access to quality programs, and work with the afterschool providers to target at-risk students.
Recess: Physical activity at a well-run recess can make for more engaged students and better attendance. A school in Boston found that the average number of absences dropped 78 percent after using the Playworks program.