Early Matters: District and Site Level Practices

Start With a Warm Welcome and Engagement

Beginning the year having positive interactions with families strengthens the likelihood of consistent on-time attendance and success for the students. Make it easy for families to become involved in the school community as well as understand expectations around attendance. Engagement and relationship building with families is essential throughout the school year. Consider a new set of welcoming activities in January to boost your attendance through the winter months. See below for a wide range of suggested activities to support a warm welcome and engagement.

Ideas and Resources

Emphasize the pleasure and importance of seeing each child every day in your communications. Send a positive message, note or postcard about kindergarten and a positive statement about each student to their families. Districts can create easy-to-use scripts and materials that can be tailored for school sites. See a sample welcome letter, an Education Week article with tips for texting families, and AFT’s ¡Colorín colorado! site.

Clearly and warmly communicate attendance expectations. Make easy-to-understand and engaging attendance messaging visible in classrooms and hallways. Add your logo to posters from the Attendance Awareness Campaign; make your own or leverage a local attendance campaign that already exists. Districts should also partner with schools to create and share simple to read informational materials on attendance and what triggers contact from school. Consider distributing these family handouts.

Schedule a fall open house when kindergarten students can show their classroom or their work to their parents. Typically held at the school, an open house can include a brief activity parents and children can do together. Introduce short interactive exercises for parents, like Washing the Elephant, or a brief video like Bringing Attendance Home, both of which quickly convey the importance of attendance for school success and open parents’ hearts and minds to action.

Make it easy for families to help in the classroom. Share concrete suggestions for how parents/caregivers can contribute. Options include volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning a field trip, making copies or prepping/cutting materials at home for the students to use in the classroom.

Reach out through a walking school bus. A walking school bus involves  children walking to school or the stop with one or more adults. Launch a walking school bus with parents and community businesses to support students who are chronically absent from high-need neighborhoods, strengthen relationships with families and meet students and families in their own neighborhood.

Use a mascot to welcome families and promote attendance. Arrange for a volunteer mascot to show up in the mornings, at recess or at the end of the day. A “surprise” quick visit can be a useful reminder to children and families. If you don’t have a mascot, consider using the one created for the Perfectly Punctual Campaign.

Conduct home visits. Relational home visits can improve student attendance. Welcoming outreach can help build relationships with parents. It also can help families understand why showing up to class is so important to their child’s academic success. Visits to families at home or to the neighborhood can promote conversations about the student’s strengths, health, behavior and learning needs that may affect attendance and also lay the foundation for any problem-solving that may be needed later. The Parent Teacher Home Visits program and Connecticut LEAP program are proven models that offer training and support to staff and schools. The Parent Teacher Home Visits program and Connecticut LEAP program are proven models that offer training and support to staff and schools. 

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.