Parents in every city in the U.S. want their children to do well in school but many don’t fully understand the connection between chronic absence and a student’s academic achievement. To address this discrepancy, Families In Schools (FIS) has created a toolkit to engage parents in improving attendance for students.
The Importance of Attendance Toolkit: Facilitator’s Guide was developed to provide school and agency staff with best practices and strategies for engaging parents. The toolkit is centered on staff facilitated workshops with parents, as short as 10 minutes or as long as 45 minutes. The goal of a workshop is to help parents develop a better understanding of how chronic absence can impact a child’s achievement, by identifying who is affected by poor attendance in the early grades, by learning how attendance affects a child’s ability to read at grade level, and enabling parents to explore strategies for ensuring or improving a child’s attendance.
FIS supports strong family-school partnerships through its many programs aimed at parent engagement for families. FIS provides programs and professional development to help build skills, knowledge and the confidence of both parents and school or agency staff on how to work together to support student achievement.
The organization also partners with the Campaign For Grade Level Reading on programs to encourage students and families to read together and to read more often. All of the FIS programming targets low-income and underserved communities with the understanding that access to quality education continues to be the gateway out of poverty.
“We recognize parents as having assets, who come to the table with set of knowledge and a set of skills and expertise around their own child. Parents are the child’s first and foremost teacher. So all of our curriculum is centered around accessing what the parent already knows and going from there,” said Tina Ochoa, Curriculum & Professional Development Manager with FIS. “We are assuming that parents understand that attendance is important but they may not understand how crucial it is to student achievement. Our workshop modules enable a partnership between parents and staff and help parents to dig deeper into the consequences of poor attendance.”
The toolkit was developed in partnership with Attendance Works. FIS developed some interactive activities around content found on the Attendance Works’ website, and revised it slightly so it is more relevant for families across the state. The two organizations co-created it as a Facilitator’s Guide to ensure that preparing for and implementing the modules is as easy as possible.
For each module, the guide includes recommended seating arrangements, a short list of materials needed, and interactive exercises to promote discussion between the facilitator (or staff) and the parents. The step-by-step design provides the facilitator with all of the necessary information, tips, worksheets and materials for each module.
Last fall, FIS sponsored a session in Los Angeles with 20 participants who returned to their school or agency and implemented the module with their prospective parents. The feedback about the toolkit was completely positive, including comments about the materials, varied module times, interactive exercises and written questions.
After the session one participant wrote, “The most useful part was learning to support the parents in recognizing their role [in improving student attendance].”
To learn more about The Importance of Attendance Toolkit: Facilitator’s Guide, email Families In Schools at firstname.lastname@example.org.