Our relationship with Attendance Works has been instrumental in our collective work on attendance, not only in Kent County, but across Michigan. Our research, messaging, policy and practice, strategies, and commitment to school attendance would not be where it is today without our long-standing relationship with Attendance Works."
— Carol Paine-McGovern, former Executive Director, Kent School Services Network – A Community School Coalition
Our Vision

Students of all backgrounds and circumstances attend school regularly, engage in learning and thrive.

Our Mission

Attendance Works promotes equal opportunities to learn and advances student success by reducing chronic absence.

The Problem

Our country is facing an attendance crisis. Prior to the pandemic, eight million students were chronically absent (missing 10% or more of the school year). That number has more than doubled. The adverse social, emotional and academic impact of missing too much school is highest among students and families most affected by educational inequities. Left unaddressed, chronic absence will dramatically increase the number of students struggling with reading, writing and math and escalate dropout rates. Existing attendance and truancy practices are woefully inadequate given today’s unprecedented levels of chronic absenteeism.

Our Approach

As a non-profit initiative, Attendance Works collaborates with schools, districts, states, communities and organizations to ensure that everyone recognizes that chronic absence is a serious issue that can be addressed using a positive, problem-solving approach grounded in an understanding of educational inequities.

Whether education takes place in a building or through distance learning, we seek to:
  • Build public awareness and political will to shift away from punitive action and instead partner with students and families to address the challenges that prevent them from participating in learning.

  • Encourage proven and innovative practice by offering free tools and resources on our website, as well as fee-for-service technical assistance that equips districts, schools and communities to take a data-driven approach that improves student attendance and engagement.

  • Facilitate peer learning among schools, districts and states to cultivate better practice and leverage collective wisdom, skills and knowledge to inform more effective strategies.

  • Advance policies (local, state and federal) that improve attendance and reduce chronic absence by making data systems more transparent, providing equitable access to resources and removing barriers to getting to school.

Our Approach to Addressing Educational Inequity
We promote:
  • Problem-Solving Not Blame: The response to absences should use an inclusive, problem-solving approach involving students and families. Using blame and punishment to address absences further alienates students and families.

  • Data Monitoring: Every school and district in the country should monitor and respond to chronic absence as early as possible during the school year, beginning ideally in preschool but no later than in kindergarten.

  • Illuminating Inequities: Attendance and chronic absence data should be publicly available and broken down by student groups and demographics so it can be used to highlight systemic inequities and potential solutions.

  • Co-creating Solutions. Schools and their partners need to develop strong relationships with students and families, especially from historically marginalized communities, and engage them in developing solutions to the attendance-related issues that impact their lives.

  • Examining Biases. Educators and other adults working in schools should examine their own biases and beliefs, as well as various aspects of students’ and families’ identities and experiences, that may affect attendance and engagement in school. All of the adults in the school community should be aware of and take action to address bullying or threats based on religion, ethnicity or race that create an unsafe school environment for students and families.

  • Developing Strategic Partnerships: Chronic absenteeism reflects challenges in school and/or the community that can be collectively addressed when schools partner with community organizations, public agencies and other groups with resources to help resolve barriers and build relationships with students and families.

  • Addressing Discrimination: Chronic absence can reflect structural and historical discrimination that contributes to inequities. Solutions start with partnering with those most affected to understand root causes and working with practitioners, policy makers and community leaders to enact change.

  • Adequate and Equitable Resources: National, state and local governments should use chronic absence data to identify where additional investment and strategic support are needed to remove systemic barriers and expand opportunities to learn.

Governing magazine featured Attendance Works' Hedy Chang and the growing awareness of chronic absenteeism in a 2021 feature article, Chronic Absenteeism Is a Huge School Problem. Can Data Help? Read the article.