Halloween is over, and before long we’ll see decorations for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays everywhere. That means it’s time to think about how to staunch the spike of absences that often come right before and after the holidays.
We know that families want what is best for their children, but they don’t always realize how absences can add up to academic problems. Sometimes they allow children to miss school so they can squeeze a few more days out of the vacation season or find cheaper airfare.
At the same time, results of a parent survey suggest that families would be willing to shorten vacations if they believe the absences are affecting academic success. Principals, teachers and community partners have an opportunity to reduce holiday absences by ensuring that parents and students understand the toll that absenteeism takes on achievement.
We’ve updated our tools and messaging for school leaders hoping to encourage good attendance around the winter holidays. We recommend:
- Send a letter out before Thanksgiving and again in the weeks before the longer winter break urging students and families to avoid absences.
- Stress 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.
- Plan a special event or service activity for the last day before the holiday or the first day back. If possible, create a contest or find ways to recognize good attendance. If the school or teachers are equipped to text parents, send a text right before school starts again to remind them of special plans.