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With Thanksgiving over and the December holidays just around the corner, it’s time to consider how we can address the spike in absences that occur before and after winter vacation days.

We know that families do want what’s best for their children. A survey of families by the Ad Council found that parents want their children to do well in school. But most families don’t know how many days their child has been absent. Nor do they understand how absences affect their child’s achievement. When holiday or other seasonal breaks come around, some families allow their kids to miss school to add a few more days to the vacation season.

Principals, teachers and community partners have an opportunity to reduce winter break absences by making sure parents and students understand the toll that absenteeism takes on a student’s ability to keep up with lessons and achieve in school.

Attendance Works has developed a Holiday Messaging toolkit with suggestions, talking points and tools for school leaders looking for ways to encourage good attendance around the winter holidays. We recommend:

  • Send a letter out in the weeks before the longer winter break urging students and families to avoid absences.
  • Let families know that teachers will be teaching every day and that children will miss out on instruction if they do not show up. Remind them that a homework packet does not take the place of classroom learning and interaction.
  • Encourage teachers to talk to students about the importance of showing up in the days before and after the holiday break.
  • Hang posters or banners that proclaim the importance of attendance to student achievement.

When educators know which days of the week or months of the year tend to have poor attendance, they can plan ahead and take steps to reduce the number of absences. If you notice absences spike before or after holidays, plan something to encourage attendance. Ideas include lessons that are especially engaging, special incentives for the days at either end of the vacation or inviting families or a special guest to visit and give presentations.

We hope our Holiday Messaging toolkit will help your community remind parents that the best gift they can give their children this year, and every year, is a good education. Find the toolkit (also in Spanish!).

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