Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L. Step 2

Cultivate A Culture of Engagement and Attendance for Students and Families

Creating a culture of attendance and engagement can be accomplished when schools and community partners establish an environment that promotes a sense of safety and belonging. Prioritizing respect and creating a space where students feel connected to adults in the building and the school culture are just a few ways schools can create positive engagement. Research shows that when students feel connected to and supported by their teachers, they are more motivated to attend and have better academic outcomes.

Students succeed when families and educators work together as equal partners. Schools can recognize families as essential partners through equitable relationships that support student learning in school and at home. This involves building trust, learning how to leverage the strengths and assets of a student and family, and helping them overcome challenges to getting to school. Building strong relationships are helpful for all families, but they are essential for working with children and family members who have experienced any form of trauma.

The goal is to integrate attendance, engagement and belonging into existing practice. Talk about attendance and engagement during routine interactions with students and families. Promote these ideas at regularly scheduled events, including greeting children and families at drop-off, taking roll in a caring and sensitive manner, during parent-teacher conferences and using supportive teaching practice.

Ideas and Resources


These materials can help you to build a culture of attendance, engagement and belonging with students and families and support the R.E.A.L. framework.

Nurture engagement through one-on-one communications. Reach out to families with a postcard, a letter sent home, a call or text before school starts.

  • Home Visits - Research shows that the Parent Teacher Home Visits program (PTHV) can improve attendance, academic performance and teacher capacity. PTHV has adapted with a virtual option.

  • Download documents with the R.E.A.L. concepts tailored to use when communicating with families, youth, and families with older students.

Offer Resources to Families. The Attendance Handouts for families (available in English plus eight languages) encourages parents to think about attendance as they think about school. The student attendance success plans help families identify what they can do to promote effective attendance and who can help get their student to school. It includes a calendar so families can monitor absences.

Discuss at Schoolwide Gatherings. Help adults think through the importance of consistent attendance to children’s success in school. Show the Bringing Attendance Home video, or use interactive exercises such as Routines that Rock or Washing the Elephant.

Make sure every student is connected to a caring adult. Consider using this relationship mapping tool from Harvard University. Using this strategy, school staff identify youth who do not currently have positive connections with school adults.

Integrate messages about belonging, engagement and attendance into seasonal activities and the school calendar. Use our calendars as a tool for planning activities and events that will keep a focus on improving attendance all year long. Pick from the resources below to fill out your year-round approach:

Ensure school activities nurture a sense of belonging among students.