Early Matters: Site Level Practices
Use Attendance to Nurture a Strong School Community
Community and family engagement is critical to establishing a warm positive climate that motivates daily attendance for all children. The transition to kindergarten offers educators a critical opportunity for helping incoming families meet others and know that they are valued members of their new school community.
The beginning of the school experience also offers a chance to encourage families to get involved in creating a supportive school community. Parents who have participated in Head Start and/or skill development programs, like Abriendo Puertas, are especially likely to have leadership skills that can be drawn upon to enhance the community and family engagement at their school.
Since attendance is everyone’s business and everyone’s challenge, bringing families together to address attendance can help reduce chronic absence while offering a time to share strategies and support one another. Providing leadership opportunities for parents to develop and support activities around attendance promotes meaningful peer to peer and parent-teacher cooperation. Families rise to the occasion when they are seen as part of the solution
Consider these ideas and resources for engaging families in building a strong community that supports getting students to school every day.
Invite parents to help plan incentives and recognition activities for children that promote the habit of consistent on-time attendance. See Attendance Works Tips for Incentives.
Engage family members in developing and operating walking school buses especially if unsafe routes or unreliable transportation to school are a challenge. Find tips in the Safe Routes to School guide and The Walking Preschool School Bus: A Neighborhood Solution by COFI
Encourage parents to act as an attendance mascot! Parents love to play Punctual Pete and are great messengers to their peers as well as the children. Work with a core group to develop a schedule and criteria.
Create opportunities for parents to support the school’s approach to improving attendance. Consider, for example, hosting an Attendance Café which is even more powerful when offered as a part of a series of Parent Cafes. Or invite parents to work with school staff to provide feedback on school climate issues using our Scan of Environment and Attendance Tool. Attendance Works is creating a similar school climate tool for Head Start and Preschool programs which will be available by summer 2019.
Enlist parents to serve as community ambassadors to local businesses and other leaders to solicit their support of attendance efforts. Empowering parents as partners in outreach to the larger community -- from the barber shop or beauty salon to the grocery or fast food store, from the local sports team to the local library or museum -- makes on-time attendance a community-wide value – and more importantly, a critical value to parents and children. Encourage parents to draw upon their home languages, cultures and life experiences (for example, growing up as immigrants or raising a child with a disability) and reach out to organizations, groups and people with whom they can more easily make a connection. Our Making the Case handouts provide talking points that adults can use for enlisting support from different community partners and suggestions for how community partners can get involved.
Click here to read how others have engaged families in building a strong community that supports getting students to school every day.
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.