Early Matters: District & Community Supports
Engage Community Stakeholders in Promoting Attendance
Districts play an essential role in setting the context for individual schools and preschools to improve their transition practice. They can make sure that key community stakeholders understand why addressing chronic absenteeism during kindergarten transition is important and are prepared to support it with their resources. Quality transition programming can be especially important for vulnerable populations, such as families with children with disabilities, who speak a language other than English, are from a community with a history of negative experiences with educational institutions or are struggling with barriers related to poverty. The district, possibly in partnership with another public agency or prominent community leader, can bring together key stakeholders from local government, business, civic, social services and education sectors to discuss why attendance, starting in preschool and kindergarten, matters for long-term academic success. The group should also consider the role each can play in addressing this problem. If the work is happening in a region that includes multiple school districts, then it might make sense to identify a regional partner, for example, a United Way or a city mayor, who can serve as a convener across districts.
Such a convening can be used to share national research and if available, local data on why addressing chronic early absence is important for early school success. It should include data about the prevalence, scale and concentration of chronic absence as well as showcase promising efforts locally that have had some success in reducing chronic absence. It can also create opportunities for stakeholders to map out existing assets and resources such as health care providers, transportation departments or mentors and discuss how they can work together to support addressing attendance as part of the transition to kindergarten.
These ideas and resources can be used by districts to engage community partners in addressing chronic absenteeism.
Before launching a new initiative, first identify if there is an existing collaborative that is already focusing on attendance or successful kindergarten transition or would be willing to add it. If there is an existing effort focused on academic achievement or dropout prevention, such as a Grade-Level Reading Community or the Grad Nation campaign to improve high school graduation rates all the right players might already be involved.
Find cross-sector co-conveners, such as the superintendent and the mayor or an influential business leader to chair the meeting. Such leaders can help to make the issue a priority and by engaging them early, you can solidify their support.
Map out and recruit partners with relevant resources and who are affected by chronic absence. Consider using our Making the Case handouts as a resource for engaging potential partners.
Make the case during the meeting for why chronic absence in the early grades matters. Use visual demonstrations such as, Illustrating the Gap as well as research such as this Chicago study which show the detrimental impact of chronic absence starting in preschool and kindergarten on early literacy.
Develop a community-wide messaging campaign. These campaigns can make it easier for educators working in early childhood settings or elementary schools to share this important information with families and for families to hear reinforcing messages everywhere they go. The Attendance Works national Attendance Awareness Campaign has messaging resources including the Count Us In Toolkit.
Click here to read how districts have engaged community partners in addressing chronic absenteeism.
Site Level Practices
Schools, preschool and districts can integrate attendance into these five site level practices that support the transition to kindergarten
District and Community Supports
Whether or not preschools and schools integrate attendance into the site level practices is heavily influenced by whether districts and other key community partners work together to put in place systems to support adoption of good practice at scale. These supports create a foundation for infusing attendance into kindergarten transition efforts.