Improving attendance is not a solo sport. It requires a team that meets regularly (ideally weekly) to coordinate efforts to reduce chronic absence, including the work of success mentors. Each principal and school will need to determine whether this should be a team devoted exclusively to attendance or an existing team that has attendance added to its broader functions and responsibilities. In addition, if a school has a large attendance problem, it may want, at least for a time, to create a separate team or subcommittee devoted to developing its attendance strategy and launching the success mentor program.
To be effective, success mentor strategies should be embedded within a more comprehensive approach for improving attendance that is supported by the school as a whole, especially the school leadership. Success mentors should be seen as part of a second tier of intervention that occurs after the school has already motivated students to show up to school in a number of ways, including by creating a positive and engaging school climate. The image (below) illustrates the three-tiered reform system used in many school districts and states.
The impact of a success mentor will be limited if their efforts to motivate a student are not reinforced by positive messaging, or students are reluctant to show up because they feel disengaged by their everyday interactions with other students and adults on the school site.
Two especially critical components – a principal led team that oversee attendance and a school-wide strategy for family engagement and attendance messaging – must be in place at the school site level.
Leading Attendance: A toolkit for Principals
While everyone can help ensure students show up to class every day, the leadership role that a principal plays is irreplaceable. Principals are uniquely positioned to ensure their school adopts a comprehensive, tiered approach to improving attendance that fits with their overall approach to promoting academic achievement.