Early and Often: Showing up in Preschool Matters 2.0

Attendance Works - Early and Often - Education Toolkit

Educators, policymakers, researchers and families agree: a high-quality preschool program can build early literacy and math skills, as well as develop the social and emotional foundation children need to persist in school. But young children—whether in Head Start, public pre-kindergarten or in a private program—only receive the full effect of these benefits if they show up for class regularly.

How do you go about improving attendance in the preschool years? It starts with sharing that developing a habit of attendance is a key component of school readiness. It involves learning about how many absences are too many, encouraging families to bring their children to school every day even when it is hard, and engaging students once they are in the classroom. It can also include helping families get assistance to solve a significant barrier to getting their young children to school.

Students with good and improving attendance is a cause for celebration. So read on to find ways to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative!”

Our strategies recognize that getting children to school every day on time is contingent on engaging families and helping them understand the importance of regular attendance and how missing too many days impacts their child’s success.

We’ve found that a three-tiered system of intervention can make addressing chronic absence more manageable, and nurtures a culture of attendance.

  • Tier 1: Awareness and prevention for all children and families all year round.

  • Tier 2: Personalized outreach to families of children missing 10-19 percent of days enrolled.

  • Tier 3: Targeted intervention with families of children missing 20 percent or more of days enrolled.


Throughout this toolkit you’ll find strategies and resources to help you address each tier—from prevention and awareness to early intervention activities—that help educators address challenges faced by families with students missing 10 percent or more of the school year.

Early and Often provides free, ready to use strategies, materials and research for staff, and engaging age-appropriate activities for young children and their families to promote routines and habits toward consistent on-time attendance.

Who Can Make a Difference?
  • Children: When they get excited about coming to their early education program every day and convey that enthusiasm to their parents and caregivers.

  • Families: When they understand that early education absences matter, feel welcome and respected, understand the value of their children’s attendance and feel secure sharing challenges with program staff as needed to overcome barriers.

  • Staff: When they create a positive first school experience and build attendance messaging, tracking, problem-solving and celebrations into early education routines.

  • Community: When partners reinforce positive attendance messaging and provide resources to help families overcome barriers to attendance. 

Download an Executive Summary of the Early and Often Toolkit

Production of Early and Often was made possible by the generous support of The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation