Many schools are experiencing chronic absenteeism. Research shows that 7.5 million students are missing at least 10% of the school year, excused and unexcused. Chronic absenteeism is a strong predictor of low academic achievement and high school dropout. Knowing how urgent the matter is, how can we get in front of chronic absenteeism?
Were you the kid that NEVER missed a day of school or did some adverse experience impact your ability to attend regularly? Many schools are experiencing chronic absenteeism. Research shows that 7.5 million students are missing at least 10% of the school year, excused and unexcused. Chronic absenteeism is a strong predictor of low academic achievement and high school dropout. Knowing how urgent the matter is, how can we get in front of chronic absenteeism?
First, we need to reflect and ask ourselves, why is chronic absenteeism a thing? There may be a variety of factors impacting student attendance, and it is important for us to be considerate as we build solutions. Kids could be missing because they are fearful of showing their academic challenges, struggling with peer relationships, dealing with traumatic life events, lacking transportation or are simply bored. Though we may not be able to diagnose every “why”, we can all answer the question, how do we strategically support students that are at risk of missing too much school?
→ Download our playbook to learn how St. Louis Public Schools increased attendance by 10% in one semester with two key school practices.
Consider using the following strategies to bring “perfect attendance” back to reality by making school a fun, supportive place for students that may be at risk of chronic absenteeism!
Create a more positive school culture and a focus on engaging & relevant instruction
One way to target chronic absenteeism is by ensuring that school is a place where kids are excited to be because they know what to expect, feel connected to the people they learn with, and are excited about how their learning connects to the vision they have for their lives.
Use the following ideas to ensure students are present every day:
- Build an engaging calendar of school events that will get students excited about coming to school and participating in unique experiences.
- Have teachers invest students in classroom narratives that connect students to a united purpose; allowing students to see how the curriculum connects to their life and will help them reach their goals. This will give students a strong desire to engage with schoolwork that feels invigorating!
- Include relevant texts, media, activities, and discussions into daily lesson plans that build on student interests and identity.
- Build school community by finding ways for students to get to know each other and get excited about learning and socializing with their peers.
- Develop platforms for students to give teachers feedback and share their ideas with the school community.
Ensure your school has appropriate support systems for students in need
Schools have the responsibility of teaching students and connecting them with resources to address areas of need. Simply put, some students are chronically absent because they need some form of intervention. Many students may be missing school due to academic ability, social issues, or challenges in their environment.
By being proactive, schools can notice student needs and address them early to prevent chronic absences from occurring:
- Have the social worker greet students as they arrive in the morning, making it easy for students to ask someone they trust for help if the day is starting off rough.
- Have the Response To Intervention (RTI) team prioritize interventions for students who were chronically absent, retained or highly suspended the previous year.
- Track dates in which students have experienced a traumatic event (loss of a loved one, house fire, etc.) to ensure that they are supported when the time arises.
- Clarify outside service providers that parents can be referred to if they are in need of resources to support their family.
- Have extra uniforms available for students to use in case of an emergency.
- Provide strategic instructional coaching and support for teachers, prioritizing ways to improve differentiated instruction so that teachers can meet the needs of all learners.
- Consistently develop school-wide initiatives to provide diverse, tiered intervention.
Nurture a culture of attendance and catch problems early
A key to proactively addressing chronic absenteeism is being prepared. Form an attendance review team (utilizing an assistant principal, data manager, school social worker, dean of students, etc.) to set attendance goals, regularly monitor attendance, and communicate with parents about issues as they arise.
Collecting and analyzing attendance and tardy occurrences easily can ensure that you address challenges early.
- Communicate attendance expectations, impact, and consequences of missing school excessively in the student handbook.
- Create goal-based incentives that motivate attendance and positive student behaviors.
- Use one system for tracking daily attendance, tardies, behavior and school culture data.
- Use data to identify which students are at risk, so you can intervene before isolated absences becomes chronic absenteeism. Try these suggestions to support the process:
- Set up automatic phone calls to inform parents of student absences.
- Have teachers call parents if a student misses more than one day in a week.
- Schedule meetings with families if a student gets to 3 absences in a semester. Develop an attendance action plan with the family.
- Refer the family for support services if a student continues to miss school or has 5 or more absences.
Here at Kickboard we have seen many schools turnaround chronic absenteeism by using our mobile app, web platform, and professional development services to simplify attendance tracking and improve communication.
Being intentional about investing students in a fun school day and providing strategic support for a variety of needs that may arise can increase student attendance, influence academic progress, and contribute to the growth of a school towards meeting its mission. Be prepared to address chronic absenteeism, for any reason, by implementing the given strategies.