Attendance Works

Director's Note
The new year brings a new name and exciting opportunities for our school attendance initiative. First the name: We’re changing from Attendance Counts to Attendance Works to reflect the positive role that attendance plays in advancing student achievement and to avoid a conflict with a software product that tracks employee absences. As for the upcoming opportunities, Attendance Works will be:

  • Working with national allies and a coalition of foundations to spread the word about the need to track and intervene when students miss too much school.
  • Intensifying efforts in California, where new legislation encourages tracking chronic absence data.
  • Laying the foundation for a state campaign in Maryland in collaboration with local partners and exploring initiatives in other states.
  • Helping afterschool providers to make improved school-day attendance an intentional goal of their work.
  • Introducing a teacher training guide for the American Federation of Teachers.
  • Working one-on-one with school districts and cities that want to start addressing chronic absence.

    - Hedy Chang

Policy Spotlight

After Policy Win, Work Shifts to Ensuring Chronic Absence Tracking

Legislation signed last fall by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) effectively advanced our efforts to track chronic absence and student attendance on California’s longitudinal student data base (CALPADS).  But the Governor's signature is just the first step toward ensuring school districts actually collect the right data. 

We are now working with the California Absence and Attendance Partnership, a broad and impressive coalition of advocacy groups, on the critical next steps. These include:

  • Ensuring that the state secures and allocates federal funds to update the CALPADS data system.
  • Encouraging school districts to track the data and share it with the state.
  • Supporting the good work already going on in such school districts as San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles.

Continue reading here

Training Project Targets Afterschool Providers

Attendance Works is working with afterschool networks in Utah, Maryland and Pennsylvania to develop their capacity to help their members both improve attendance in afterschool programs and leverage their resources to combat chronic absence during school hours. We know from research that good afterschool programs can improve regular school-day attendance.

In a project funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, we have begun working together to develop an on-line survey to obtain information about the extent to which afterschool providers currently track and prioritize attendance in their own programs and the extent to which they partner with school staff to address chronic absence during school hours.  We are also crafting professional development materials to help state afterschool networks educate their members about why attendance matters for out of school time programs and what they can do to reduce student absences

Practice Spotlight
The Kindergarten Transition: Start Preparing in PreK

We know that the transition years are often the worst for attendance: kindergarten, 6th grade and 9th grade. Some smart programs, such as Perfectly Punctual and Pathways to Success, are tackling the issue head on in prekindergarten and early learning programs, working to build the routines and the awareness among children and parents of just how important school attendance can be in the early years. 

Our 2008 research showed that children who attended preschool were less likely to be chronically absent in kindergarten, suggesting that had acquired the habits of good school attendance there.

Continue reading here

Questions? For more information contact: or
Attendance Works Director Hedy N. Chang at

Attendance Works would like to express its deep appreciation to the
Annie E. Casey Foundation for investing our development and launch as a national initiative.  In addition, we thank The Stuart Foundation,
San Francisco Foundation and The California Endowment for supporting
our campaign in California.


Issue 1 ▪ Winter 2011

Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success. It aims to ensure that every school in every state not only tracks chronic absence data for its individual students but also partners with families and community agencies to help those children.

Reserach and Reports

The Vera Institute report, Getting Teenagers Back to School: Rethinking New York State’s Response to Chronic Absence, describes how relying upon the child welfare system to address the needs of chronically absent teenagers does little to improve attendance.

Many of you have requested reprints of the recent Education Week stories about chronic absence. You’re welcome to use the Five Myths handout written by Hedy Chang as often you like, giving proper credit to Attendance Works. If you want to reprint the news articles, either as handouts or in newsletters, please check with Education Week’s Kay Dorko at

Five Myths About School Attendance, Sept. 15, 2010
This commentary by Hedy Chang explains the common misunderstandings that keep schools from taking attendance seriously.

Spurred by Statistics, Districts Combat Absenteeism, Oct 1, 2010
This story explains why school attendance is an important indicator and details Baltimore’s extraordinary efforts to reduce chronic absence.

Early Grades Become the New Front in Absenteeism Wars, Oct. 14, 2010
This article describes how school districts, particularly New York City and Providence, are developing strategies to improve elementary school attendance.