Lay the Groundwork for Reviewing Absences During Parent-Teacher Conferences

The connection between teacher and family is crucial to building good attendance habits and turning around absenteeism. Parent-teacher conferences are a natural opportunity to make talking about student attendance and its implications for academic performance a norm for all families. These meetings can be used to acknowledge good and improved attendance, as well as discuss when absences have been a challenge and develop a plan to help a child catch up on the missed learning and get to school. This step requires going beyond counting the number of days a student has been absent or tardy, to helping everyone understand that even missing two days a month can add up to academic trouble if it continues.

Strategies for laying the groundwork include:

Encourage families and teachers to track absences. Families can the Student Attendance Success Plan — with a SFUSD calendar and a Family Help Bank worksheet — to track absences and develop strategies for turning around attendance. Teachers should be tracking attendance accurately when they take roll every day. Teachers can also use classroom attendance incentive programs to notice who has good and improved attendance.

Discuss why parent-teacher conferences matter and what will be covered in them as part of back-to-school events. Explain to parents that teachers will look at academics, attendance and social development since all of those contribute to student success. Suggest questions they can ask to find out more about their child’s progress.

Create opportunities for teachers to plan for how they can incorporate attendance into parent-teacher conferences.

Use attendance data to identify students who might need extra support, including from community agencies. If a student has a history of chronic absence or is missing a lot of school in the first few weeks of school, then the teacher might use the parent-teacher conference to suggest connecting to a community agency that supports your school. If the student is involved with a particular preschool, afterschool program, or family support program, make sure school staff knows about this and can connect with the program on how to work together.

How Community Partners and Parent Leaders Can Help
  • Make sure your own staff and parent leaders understand why chronic absence matters and are aware of this toolkit

  • Help families understand why parent-teacher conferences are important and what they can do to make sure they meet the needs of their child

  • Let the school know you would be available to offer extra supports to students and families facing challenges with attendance