Early Matters: Community-Wide Supports

Engage Community Partners

A community-wide approach is crucial to establishing attendance norms and securing the resources to overcome barriers to getting to school. Develop partnerships with community leaders that can contribute local resources (health, transportation, food, social services etc.) to address barriers to attendance. Engage civic leadership (business, political, cultural, neighborhood leaders etc.) that can support messaging.

Reach out to community leaders you know and get their help with engaging the community. Local leaders and community partners are more likely to become involved if they understand why reducing chronic absence matters for the entire community and how they can contribute to improving attendance. 

District leaders can be a driving force in helping the community understand the issues and promote access to both resources and information.

Ideas and Resources
  • These ideas and resources can be used to engage community partners in addressing chronic absenteeism.

  • Identify a convenor or co-convenors. Find cross-sector co-conveners, such as the superintendent and/or the mayor or an influential business leader to chair this effort to improve attendance starting in kindergarten. Such leaders can help to make the issue a priority. Engage them early so you can solidify their support. Sometimes this work can be championed by an existing collaborative (such as a Grade-Level Reading community) or another entity concerned about the well-being of children.

  • Map out and develop a plan for recruiting partners with relevant resources. Identify the groups in your community – public agencies,  businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, housing agencies, early childhood providers etc. – who can contribute a skill or resource that supports attendance for young children. Consider using our Making the Case handouts as a tool for engaging potential partners. 

    • Host a community summit. Such a convening should share information about current levels of chronic absence and who is affected. Address why chronic early absence is important; highlight which students, families and communities are affected; and showcase promising efforts locally that have had some success in reducing chronic absence. A summit can also create opportunities for students and parents/caregivers to share their perspectives and for stakeholders to agree how to combine resources to nurture attendance every day.
  • Develop a community-wide messaging campaign relevant to families with young children. Attendance awareness campaigns have proven effective in capturing the attention of students and families. Kindergarten (and preschool) both offer a unique opportunity to message about attendance and set positive patterns from the beginning of schooling. For more information on Attendance awareness campaigns, also see our handouts for preschool and kindergarten. 

    Offer easy opportunities to get involved. Various hands-on activities can be useful in the effort to reduce chronic absence. Create a set of opportunities that work for you and promote them through your community partners. For example:

    • Local health clinics might have medical personnel along with the school nurse available during a back-to-school night for kindergarten families. 
    • Pediatric, dental and mental health practitioners might speak with families about how to keep kids healthy and well in school or community settings.  
    • Faith-based organizations might help organize and staff a walking school bus in their neighborhood to support students getting to school. 
    • Local businesses and/or civic groups might offer weekly or monthly reading time with individual or small groups of kindergarten students that also include messaging about the importance of attendance.
Explore Early Matters: Cultivating Engagement and Attendance In Kindergarten

Production of Early Matters: Cultivating Engagement and Attendance in Kindergarten was made possible by the generous support of the Heising Simons Foundation.