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As the ripple effects of the pandemic continue to rattle the nation, paying attention to attendance is more crucial than ever. In schools, students must be present and actively engaged in learning if we are to recover from the pandemic.

A recent survey suggests that chronic absence has more than doubled from pre-pandemic levels, when 8 million students — or one out of six – were missing too many days of school. Chronic absence (missing 10% or more of school) is an early warning sign that students are at risk of not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, struggling academically in middle school and dropping out of high school.

We’ve heard from districts across the country, and have learned that when it comes to talking with families and students about attendance, simply emphasizing the impact of days missed on learning does not hit the mark. To be effective, messaging should recognize the overwhelming stresses many students and families are faced with during the pandemic.

To respond to current realities, Attendance Works has developed a new framework for communicating with families and students about why showing up to school matters. We call it, “Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L.,” and it is embedded in a whole child perspective. The framework offers a memorable way to explain how being in school supports students’ social, emotional and physical well-being while providing opportunities to learn and achieve.

We recommend messaging that highlights “Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L.” because participating in school offers opportunities to:

• Build Routines
• Increase Engagement
• Provide Access to Resources
• Support Learning

“Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L.” is not just a slogan to use with families and students. It is also a call to action for schools and communities. We have to work together to make sure schools have all of the components necessary so students are supported and motivated to attend, connect and learn. Learn more about the R.E.A.L. framework here.

The toolkit is structured around a four step approach and free messaging resources to incorporate into regular school operations, that can be used today, throughout the summer and into the fall. Now more than ever, we need to find ways to engage children and families to support their learning and recovery.

Find Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L.: A Toolkit for Communicating with Students and Families.

Production of Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L. was made possible by the generous support of Kaiser Permanente, Heising-Simons Foundation and our individual donors.

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