A home visiting program in Connecticut public schools conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic improved student attendance rates by approximately 4 percentage points overall in the month following the visit, compared with pre-pandemic levels. Results of an analysis of the program show that attendance continued to rise in the following months.
What’s more, nine months after the first home visit, students in grades PreK-5 experienced approximately an eight-percentage point increase in attendance. Students in grades 6-12 experienced approximately a sixteen-percentage point increase, suggesting that the impact of the home visiting program was significantly larger in later grades.
The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and Governor Ned Lamont used $10.7 million in federal pandemic relief funds to launch the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP) to address student absenteeism and disengagement from school. Through the program, home visitors connect directly with families and students to establish trusting relationships, help return them to a more regular form of school attendance, and assist with placement in summer, after school and learning programs.
Attendance Works was involved in designing the program model as well as developing and initially providing professional training to equip the LEAP home visitors to conduct the visits. Click here to read a press release and view a video highlighting the effectiveness of LEAP’s home visiting actions in reducing student absences. (Or click on the video below.)
LEAP provided funds to 15 districts, chosen because of high levels of chronic absenteeism. Each district paid school staff or community members to meet with students at home or in other locations, eventually reaching some 8,700 students attending schools statewide.
Attendance improvements in one district stand out: Hartford Public Schools saw a dramatic rise in attendance with an increase of nearly 30 percentage points in the 6 months following the home visits, according to the analysis.
Improvements overall occurred regardless of who was involved with the home visit. Nine months after the initial LEAP visit, attendance rates increased by between approximately 15 and 20 percentage points regardless of who conducted the visit, the analysis found.
Yet it did matter how the visit was conducted: LEAP visits that occurred at a student’s home or school had significantly larger impacts on attendance than visits that occurred via Zoom or phone.
In contrast, LEAP appears to have had no impact on attendance rates in a district that did not implement the LEAP program as designed. New Haven Public Schools canvassed neighborhoods that were identified as having high concentrations of chronically absent students, instead of doing one-on-one individual LEAP visits.
Home visits offer an opportunity for building trusting relationships, which may have waned during the pandemic. When done in the summer or fall, home visits can establish rapport early, before any problems arise. The connection created with a home visit can make it easier for educators and community partners to find out what motivates students to show up, identify barriers to getting to school regularly, and make the space needed for families and schools to collaborate on securing the resources to overcome these challenges.
“While overcoming the current challenges to regular attendance will take time, LEAP is an example of a program that can have an immediate impact on students, families and the school community. We know that students succeed when staff establish relationships of trust with families and work together as equal partners,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works.
Connecticut also used the federal Covid relief funds to develop the Center for Connecticut Education Research Collaboration (CCERC), a research partnership between the CSDE and institutions of higher education across the state. Researchers from Wesleyan University, Central Connecticut State University, University of Connecticut and the Capital Regional Educational Council carried out the LEAP analysis.
“These important evaluations and their results enable us to continue what’s working, refine what’s not as effective, and recommend targeted investments where necessary,” Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker said in a press release when the analysis was released.
Find the report’s Executive Summary.