Taking the appropriate action requires having accurate, easily accessible, up-to-date data that shows which and how many students are chronically absent — ideally broken down by school and grade. Such student-level data should be available and reviewed monthly while data on overall levels of chronic absenteeism — again broken down by school, grade and sub-population — might be examined less frequently, possibly at the end of each quarter or semester.
- 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
Positive Outliers Toolkit
Do you have a school in your district that is beating the odds, recording higher attendance rates than schools with similar student populations? If so, do you know why? Chronic absence data not only can reveal the scope of attendance problems but also pinpoint the schools with the practices and leadership that are making a difference. This toolkit will help you look beyond the numbers and find out how these positive outliers are bringing more kids to school every day.
Analyzing the Data
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 missed 10 percent of the school year in the previous year. Reach out to their parents sometime in September. At the end of the month, look at how many students have already missed 10 percent (2-3 days) and track their attendance going forward. Attendance Works has created data tools that districts can use to examine patterns and identify which students are at risk due to poor attendance.
If you can’t look at chronic absence, average daily attendance (ADA) numbers can provide some direction about where to focus resources. 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.