Early Matters: Community-Wide Practices

Organize Attendance and Engagement Campaigns That Reach Families With Young Children

Promoting daily attendance starts with helping families understand why attendance matters. Before the pandemic, research found that while families had high hopes for their children, many did not always realize that showing up nearly every day to school was crucial to academic achievement for our youngest learners.

The pandemic has made it harder for families to appreciate the importance of showing up regularly to preschool and kindergarten. Far fewer children had the opportunity to attend high-quality preschools during the pandemic, which made it harder for many families to experience the benefits of early childhood education and getting into an attendance routine.

In addition, because of health concerns many schools have been cautious about opening up their campus to parents/caregivers. When families do not have a chance to see what is happening in the classroom, it is harder to convey how those activities support children’s development. Helping families understand how requirements have changed as the impact of Covid-19 has decreased requires intentional communications. Find guidance on communicating with families about health in the Offer Supports to Reduce Health-Related Absences section of this toolkit.

A key part of any effort to re-establish norms of attendance every day requires community-wide messaging campaigns that make it easier for educators to convey why showing up every day in kindergarten matters. It is important for families to hear reinforcing messages everywhere they go. When developing a messaging campaign, consider how you can partner with families in two-way conversations about how to support daily attendance in kindergarten attendance.

Typically, community-wide messaging campaigns include handouts to go in backpacks or shared at in-person events, talking points that can be used in conversation, email and presentations and sometimes include billboards or school logos. Attendance Works has ready-to use resources for local campaigns as part of the Attendance Awareness Campaign.

Campaigns typically start at the beginning of the school year and continue throughout the year. They include strategies to address predictable attendance dips, for example, before and after the holidays, during rainy or snowy weather or at the end of the year.

Ideas and Resources

The ideas and resources below can be used to develop community-wide messaging campaigns targeted to families with kindergarten children.

  • Take a holistic approach to explaining why attendance every day matters for children’s development. Consider using our Showing Up Matters for REAL toolkit. It explains that showing up matters because it offers an opportunity to build routines, increase engagement, provide access to resources and support learning.
  • Integrate messaging about developing the habit of attendance every day as a readiness skill into your district’s registration drives.
  • Ensure messaging speaks to the realities of families with young children and families, not just those with older children. Tailor messaging to the languages and cultures of families with young children in your community. Use family handouts developed by Attendance Works (in several languages).
  • Highlight the importance of reducing unnecessary health-related absences. Schools and districts can take action to reduce health-related absences by helping schools and families to keep children healthy and also understanding when to send them to school or keep them home due to symptoms of illness. Learn more in the Offer Supports to Reduce Health-Related Absences section of this toolkit. 
  • Make sure attendance incentive programs encourage improved attendance. Read our blog describing a framework for educators interested in implementing incentives to improve student attendance, with a list of questions to help shape an incentive program and our guidelines for attendance incentives. 
  • Link messaging about the importance of showing up to school with assistance to help families overcome barriers. Consider some of the Attendance Works resources for addressing barriers.
  • Leverage the Attendance Works national Attendance Awareness Campaign, including the Count Us In! toolkit, where you’ll find tips on creating a local awareness campaign and links to free resources.
  • Recharge your messaging at times during the school year when absenteeism spikes, such as before holidays, during winter break and in the spring.
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.