Director's Note

This time of year, parents everywhere are making sure their children are ready for school. This isn't just a matter of having the right pencil box and notebooks. For our youngest children, it's critical that they arrive at kindergarten with the social and academic skills they need to succeed. And it's crucial that they learn the habit of good attendance early.

New research we commissioned in California highlights just how strong a connection there can be between school readiness and chronic absence. It suggests that a student must be prepared for kindergarten and attending school regularly in kindergarten and first grade to be a proficient reader by the end of third grade.

These issues, along with summer learning loss, are the core community solutions embraced by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a collaborative effort by dozens of foundations and nonprofits to ensure that third graders have mastered reading.

Next year's All-America City awards will go to the 10 cities that come up with the best plans for addressing these community solutions. The Campaign is providing technical assistance to cities that apply, and Attendance Works is helping with that. If you already have a strong attendance program in place, talk to your city leaders, United Way and civic groups about expanding the effort and applying for this prestigious award. As we wrote in our blog, we believe it offers a tremendous opportunity to increase attention to attendance and link it to other key factors affecting early literacy, as well as gain opportunities for peer learning and technical assistance.

- Hedy Chang

Chronic Absence Can Erode School Readiness Gains

Students who arrive at kindergarten with a strong set of skills can see those benefits erode if they miss too many days in kindergarten and first grade, leaving even the best prepared students unable to read well by the end of third grade, according to a study by Applied Survey Research and Attendance Works. At the same time, student who arrived unprepared academically are less likely to read proficiently, regardless of their attendance patterns.

The analysis conducted this spring offers preliminary evidence that kids need to be both ready for school and ready to attend regularly in order to flourish.

The research builds off a study of students in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in California. Each student was given a school readiness assessment when they started kindergarten in 2004 and 2005. ASR then looked at state test scores in third grade to see how readiness correlates with grade-level proficiency in language and math.

As you might suspect, the correlation was strong. Kindergarten students who were academically ready were more than three times more likely to be performing at grade level on both language and math tests in third grade, the study found.

Attendance Works then asked the researchers to look at what happens when those students were chronically absent in their kindergarten and first grade years.

Read More Here.

Practice Spotlight
Tackling Tardiness to Promote Good Attendance 

On-time attendance is a habit best learned when schooling begins. So why not start in preschool? Learning and Leadership in Families has pioneered a program for preschoolers and elementary students that emphasizes punctuality as an antidote to chronic absenteeism.

The Perfectly Punctual Campaign is a parent engagement strategy that uses positive reinforcement for students and honors parents throughout the school year for good attendance. In this two-generation strategy, students help track their own attendance and receive recognition on a weekly basis.

The program relies on research showing that children who were tardy in kindergarten were 10 times more likely than their on-time peers to be chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade, and three times as likely in third and fifth grade.

Read More Here.

Building Good Attendance Habits in Preschool and Head Start

Montgomery County, Md. has won national recognition for prekindergarten programs that have helped develop literacy skills for many low-income children. What’s not as well known is the extensive effort the school district makes to ensure that its youngest students attend school regularly.

Careful attention to attendance data, structured intervention when students miss too much school and a safety net of services for families have helped school officials keep attendance levels high, even before school attendance is mandatory. The county’s chronic absence rate in elementary school is 4.2 percent, compared to 6.2 percent statewide.

Making the right connection at this early stage is vital, says Janine Bacquie, the district’s director of the Division of Early Childhood Programs and Services. “This is really the first time when families are engaged with the schools,” she says.

Read More Here.

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 5, August 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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