Blog Article

Every Day Counts Summit: Working Towards A Positive New Normal

May 22, 2024

Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center were honored to be included last week in the Every Day Counts Summit: Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Increasing Student Engagement. (View the recording!)

The meeting showcased efforts implemented by governors, state education superintendents, local district leaders and nonprofits that are making strides in improving the nation’s dramatically high chronic absenteeism rates.

White House Spotlight

A fact sheet from the White House describes new grant programs as well as resources from Attendance Works, Everyone Graduates Center and other organizations to help states and districts increase student attendance and engagement.

Officials from the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, U. S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy urged states, cities, towns and schools to cultivate a culture of attendance.

“We all know that the most significant challenge we are facing in schools today is absenteeism,” said Neera Tanden, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “That is why we cannot accept chronic absenteeism as the new normal.” Tanden noted that the president is “laser focused” on ensuring every child receives a quality education.

Governors Offer Solutions

Governors from Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as Dr. Eric G. Mackey, Alabama state superintendent of education, and Dr. Kate Jenner, Indiana secretary of education, shared the detailed, comprehensive work they are doing to engage, and in some cases re-engage students and families in school.

Mackey described an array of programs led at the state level. For example, he noted efforts underway with the nonprofit Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation that has expanded across the state to work with schools and support student mental health and also supporting schools with attendance.

Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee mentioned the Learn 365 RI initiative designed to shift learning to a model that offers year-round educational and career readiness opportunities.

Creating a Comprehensive Plan

Dr. Robert Balfanz, professor with Johns Hopkins School of Education shared an action plan for states, districts and schools developed with Attendance Works. Improving chronic absenteeism in most schools today requires that we take a comprehensive, systematic approach, Balfanz said. “The scale and intensity of this challenge requires that if we just have one off strategies or bet the ranch on doing one thing well we’re not going to move the needle,” Balfanz said.

Balfanz outlined three steps schools and districts can take to develop a successful, comprehensive response to chronic absenteeism:
A. Employ prevention strategies, including increasing school connectedness and family engagement.
B. Develop a robust problem solving capacity that engages students and families in identifying root cause and effective solutions.
C. Include strategies to mitigate the lost learning and weak social connections that result when students miss too much school.

To employ a comprehensive response, Balfanz noted that schools need student success teams which engage everyone in school who play a key role in improving attendance. Teams should include as many as eight to ten members for mid-size and larger schools, rather than the typical one to two people assigned to address absenteeism. These teams need ready access to actionable data, that is as real time as possible, and shows patterns and trends across grades, sub-groups and over time.

A Role for State and Local Superintendents

Hedy Chang, executive director, Attendance Works moderated a panel of state and local superintendents from Richmond, Virginia, Columbus Ohio, Johnstown, New York and Albuquerque, New Mexico. “This panel is about where the rubber hits the road, because ultimately, whether we make a difference depends on what happens at the district level, what happens in schools and what happens in the direct interaction between kids and families,” Chang said.

Noting that the panelists represented districts of varying size, geographic location and economic status (large, small, rural urban, varying levels of free and reduced price lunch, etc.), Chang said that each has reduced their chronic absenteeism recently by about a quarter percent from levels before the pandemic.

Dr. Shadae Harris, chief engagement officer with Richmond Public Schools, described the district’s shift away from punitive approaches to focusing on removing student and family barriers to attendance. The district also put relationship building at the center of their attendance efforts, Harris said.

Tyree Pollard, director of whole child community partnerships with Columbus City Schools in Ohio, talked about having leadership at the top of the district as key to driving successful efforts. The district worked to educate the school staff, families and outside partners about what chronic absenteeism is and how it affects student well-being and achievement. Also key to success was developing a team approach as well as encouraging every school to set its own attendance goal.

Scott Hale, principal of Johnstown High School in Johnston New York, outlined the school’s comprehensive approach which includes deploying 25 staff members as success mentors. The mentors form supportive relationships with chronically absent students and problem solve with them to remove obstacles to their regular attendance.

Mark Garcia, associate superintendent of leadership, learning and equity for goal 3, and Bryan Garcia, community schools development specialist detailed how Albuquerque Public Schools district uses student success teams to engage students and families in identifying the root cause of their absenteeism and effective solutions. The district uses a community schools model to enable each campus to have the strategic partnerships they need with nonprofits and government agencies to meet the student’s needs and address the barriers unearthed through the student success teams.

Wrapping up the event, Robert Gordon, deputy assistant to the president for economic mobility noted that today’s event showcased the effective interventions happening around the country. This offers us an opportunity for learning from each other about what is most effective, so that we are really seeing the best ways to spend those limited dollars, Gordon said.

“Something that came out of today for me was this possibility of a positive new normal, which would be a new normal where kids expect and families expect they’re going to be in school,” Gordon said.

Resources Shared

The Digital Backpack – “Resources to Address Chronic Absenteeism in Your Community” from the National Partnership for Student Success Support (NPSS) Hub at the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, includes a curated set of publicly available resources for easy reference.
● The Ed Research for Action Brief from The Annenberg Center at Brown University and Research for Action, supports an evidence-based approach to increasing school connectedness.
● The action planning tool from the GRAD Partnership includes guiding questions and planning templates that schools and districts can use to create a comprehensive approach to reducing absenteeism that is customized to local conditions, with additional resources for addressing school-wide attendance patterns and meeting individual student needs.
● A new brief from GRAD Partnership, Everyone Graduates Center and the NPSS Hub provides a synthesis of what we know about the district and school challenges of post-pandemic chronic absenteeism, and what can be done to meet them.
PowerPoint presentation by Robert Balfanz and Hedy Chang detailing an action plan.

News Resources

Newsletter Signup

Join our newsletter for tips, resources and news.

Share This

More from Attendance Works

Social Media

Copyright 2018 © All Rights Reserved