Pathways to Engagement: Covid-19 Recovery Through Attendance

Step 2: Identify and Understand Priority Groups

Even before the pandemic, one in six students in the United States was chronically absent (missing 10% or more of school days for any reason.) Learn more from this recent analysis of federal data. Initial data available from a few states suggest alarming increases are occurring.

The students experiencing the highest levels of chronic absence or who are missing from enrollment data are found among communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

In many places, the groups facing the greatest impacts from the pandemic and interruptions in instruction include:
  • Students living in poverty

  • Black students

  • Native American students

  • English language learners

  • Asian-American students

  • Hispanic and Latino students

  • Students with disabilities

  • Students in transition grades (preschool/K, 6th, 9th,12th)

  • Students experiencing homelessness

  • Students involved in foster care

  • Older students needing to work or care for siblings

Using Quantitative Data to Identify Priority Groups

Each school and district should use their own data to confirm which are the high priority student groups in need of additional outreach and support. View this list of questions to consider.

If your data system does not already calculate chronic absence, consider using the Attendance Works data tools. Keep in mind, however, that the changes in how a day of attendance has been defined for distance learning could mean that the data collected underestimate the number of children missing out on instructional time. See the brief, Are Students Present and Accounted For?, to better understand the problematic impact of the pandemic on attendance taking.

In addition to monitoring chronic absence, the shift to distance learning in many places makes it essential to look at additional key metrics, including whether schools and districts have working contact information for students and families, students have connectivity (both devices and internet access) and, if possible, if the student or family has a caring relationship to a school staff person. Attendance Works has developed a new data framework for monitoring attendance during the pandemic.

Understanding the Assets and Challenges of Priority Groups

Understanding which groups are experiencing high levels of chronic absence is essential to creating scalable solutions to engagement. When many students are missing too much school, schools and communities must move beyond case management to developing tailored strategies that help a group of students succeed. They can use a combination of quantitative (using numbers) and qualitative (using surveys, interviews or observations) data to understand the assets of that group and identify common challenges.

Schools and communities can also incorporate into their solutions lessons learned from existing efforts or models that have been effective with engaging specific student groups. To learn more and find examples of tools to generate qualitative data, download Resources for Identifying Assets and Challenges (forthcoming).