I had the distinct honor last month of visiting the White House to be recognized as a Champion of Change for African American Education for my work promoting school attendance. That recognition was just one sign of the momentum Attendance Works is building in addressing this important issue.


Today we’re joining several other national organizations to announce that September will be the first Attendance Awareness Month. I hope everyone will find a way to get involved.


Beyond that, researchers are breaking new ground on attendance, with the Ad Council exploring parental attitudes and the Race Matters Institute writing about racial disparities. And communities like New Britain, Conn., are finding new and exciting ways to reduce chronic absence in the early grades.

Hedy Chang

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.

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Attendance Awareness Month Set for September

Did you know one out of 10 students nationwide misses so much school they are academically at risk? In some communities, it is as high as one out of four students! We can help turn this problem around if we join together. Every school day counts, and everyone can make a difference: educators, afterschool programs, mayors, businesses and parents. That’s why Attendance Works is joining other partners to launch Attendance Awareness Month this coming September in communities across the United State Join in and rally your community around the importance of attendance and raising achievement by monitoring and reducing chronic absence. Click here to learn more about this campaign, to sign up to receive more information (including being first to receive a new toolkit that can help support your efforts) and to register for the free webinar or April 9 (1 – 2:15pm EDT).

The Attendance Awareness Campaign is organized by five partners: America’s Promise Alliance, Attendance Works, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Civic Enterprises and Points of Light Institute, and is supported by a growing list of organizations.

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White House Names Hedy Chang a Champion of Change

Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang was honored by the White House in February for her leadership in promoting educational opportunities for African-American students, one of 10 leaders who were named Champions of Change. Speaking on a panel at the White House event, Chang argued for better data tracking and positive, rather than punitive, approaches to addressing absenteeism.

“I would ask the President to keep in mind that we need data to drive action and create transparency; We need to create situations in which communities, families, schools and kids working together can turn around poor attendance” she said. “Then, we can use the insights we gain from that to change the conditions that are preventing us from allowing generations of kids to succeed.” Chang also shared her thoughts in a blog post that appeared on the White House website.

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Check out our new infographic!

We’re pleased to share our first infographic spelling out the facts about chronic absence in the early grades.The infographic is available in poster size on our website and will soon be available in Spanish!


New Report from Grad Nation

Great news from America’s Promise Alliance’s 2013 Building a Grad Nation Report: the United States is finally on track to meet the national Grad Nation goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the class of 2020.



Parent Engagement Vital to Improving Attendance

Families are the first line of defense against chronic absence, so a comprehensive approach to improving attendance requires reaching out to parents. In a March 12 peer learning webinar, representatives from Abriendo Puertas, Oakland Parents Together and Fresno’s Parent Institute for Quality Education spoke about their efforts to engage parents.

The Ad Council also presented insights on parental attitudes toward attendance gleaned from a set of focus groups and interviews. They found that all parents want academic success for their children but don’t connect attendance in elementary school or even middle school with that goal. Parents also don’t see the harm in excused absences or in missing a day here or there.

Using these insights, the Ad Council is airing PSAs and developing additional ads and materials for a campaign this fall that will focus on middle school students.

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Data Tools Help Track Absences

As the issue of chronic absence has risen in prominence, school districts and communities across the nation are seeking more powerful and effective tools to identify and help students who miss too many days of school. Our Peer Learning Network Webinar in February examined exciting new approaches to putting actionable data into the hands of practitioners. They include a student tracking system in Fresno, Calif., that uses visual displays and heat maps to alert educators to potential attendance problems. Another system, OnTrackEDU, uses chronic absence as one of several early warning indicators to help identify and support off-track students.

Districts find youngest students among most absent, Associated Press, March 17, 2013

Empty Desks: The Effects of Chronic Absenteeism, WYPR News, March 1, 2013


Prison data, court files show link between school truancy and crime, Chicago Tribune, February 19, 2013




Brief Connects Chronic Absence, Race

In a recent issue brief, the Race Matters Institute spotlights the racial disparities in chronic absenteeism among children of color, disparities that start in the early grades and persist through the school years.

“As we seek to raise the academic success rate for all children, we must take specific steps to ensure that racial gaps in chronic early absenteeism are closed, since more than half of the country’s child population will be non-white by 2023,” according to the issue brief. “Now more than ever before, our shared fate as a nation depends on closing these racial gaps.”

The ill effects of chronic absence—including lower third grade reading scores and higher dropout rates—hit low-income students and children of color hard, especially if they don’t have the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom. These students also are more likely to face systemic barriers to getting to school such as unreliable transportation, health concerns or conflicting parent work schedules.

Read more


For more information contact: or
Attendance Works Director
Hedy Chang at


New Britain Sees Significant Reduction in Kindergarten Absences

A focus on parent engagement and messaging has brought kindergarten absenteeism rates in New Britain, Conn., down by 30 percent in the past year, part of an overall reduction in chronic absence district-wide.

The percentage of kindergartners missing 10 percent or more of school days dropped from 30 percent in the past school year to 21 percent so far this year. “We’ve put most of our resources and work on parent engagement into the kindergarten level because getting to them early is so important,” said Joe Vaverchak, New Britain’s director of attendance. “It’s working.”

Through a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, the school district hired two part-time workers who meet with parents and monitor absenteeism for kindergartners. Attendance Works, which has worked closely with the district, today presented New Britain with a commendation for its efforts to date, noting the community reduced chronic absenteeism despite snowstorms and hurricanes.

Attendance Works also is partnering with the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Foundation and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to bring together a select number of districts across Connecticut to analyze their chronic absence data and learn from the New Britain experience.

Do you love our online tools, resources, webinars and up-to-date information on attendance research and news? Donate to Attendance Works!

Your gift is tax deductible and will support forging a national consensus on the need to monitor, report and address the effects of chronic absence. I hope that you will stand with as and support our work as we work to reduce chronic absence and achieve better outcomes for all students.

Attendance Works would like to express its deep appreciation to the foundations supporting our work nationally and in communities across the country: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The California Endowment, The San Francisco Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, William Caspar Memorial Foundation and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.