Director's Note
We wrote in our June newsletter about the work a few cities are doing to turn around chronic absence. Now we have 160 cities in 36 states ready to crunch their attendance data and to look at early absenteeism in an entirely new way. Since we can't be in all places at all times, we're rolling out new data tools that will make it easier for districts to identify if they have a problem with chronic absence and if so, for which schools and students. We're not stopping with cities: We're exploring opportunities at the state and federal levels to ensure that more schools are tracking this important early warning indicator. We're also using webinars and our website to meet the growing demand for best practices in using data to intervene with chronically absent kids and develop programmatic solutions addressing common barriers to attendance. Our latest addition is a profile on Oakland's efforts to improve attendance using a community schools model.

Seasons Greetings,

Hedy Chang

Practice Spotlight

As More Cities Take on Chronic Absence, New Data Tools Make Calculations Easier

When about 160 cities, counties and towns signed up in October to be part of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network, they committed to look at the role chronic absence plays in keeping children from learning to read well by the end of third grade.

In the next three months, these communities—from sprawling Los Angeles to small towns in Connecticut—will all be looking at their data to see how many students in the early grades are missing 10 percent of school and to identify patterns in schools, neighborhoods and classrooms. While a few cities work with districts who have already generated data on chronic absence, many others will be analyzing their attendance data for the first time to see if missing school is a significant problem in the early grades. To simplify the process, especially for smaller districts with more limited data capacity, we worked with Applied Survey Research to develop a self-calculating spreadsheet for school district, or the DATT.

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Volunteers Bring "A Feather, Not a Hammer" to Chronic Absence

A grandmother told the volunteer who knocked on her door that she had just received custody of her grandchildren but didn’t know how to register them for school. A mother recounted how her child had only one school uniform, and it was hard to make sure it was clean every day.

In both cases, the children had become chronically absent from the Baltimore City Public Schools. But rather than a stern warning from an attendance officer, the families received a visit from a volunteer working with a local church or nonprofit group. “We like to use a feather, not a hammer,” says program coordinator Heidi Stevens.

The School Every Day! initiative is one of several efforts we highlighted in our November webinar on how to use volunteers and national service organizations as an extra shift of adults who can help improve attendance.

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Education Waivers, Federal Legislation Offer Policy Opportunities

The U.S. Education Department's decision to let states seek waivers from the strict standards of the No Child Left Behind Act provides an opportunity to push for better tracking of school absenteeism.

Eleven states have already applied for waivers from the federal education law, and another 28 say they plan to apply early next year. To qualify, states have to create their own set of metrics for determining whether students, teachers, principals and schools are succeeding.

The waiver process, as well as Congressional efforts to rewrite the nation's education law, offers a chance to codify the tracking of chronic absence into state and federal policies. Currently many states track average daily attendance and truancy but don't crunch the numbers to see how many students are missing 10 percent or more of the school year.

Read more


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

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


Issue 7, December 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.

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