August 29, 2023

4 Benefits of a Restorative Approach to Truancy

In the wake of unprecedented levels of chronic absenteeism, many districts have shifted from only addressing unexcused absences to singing from school rooftops that every missed day of school, excused or unexcused, is a missed opportunity to learn and grow. 

However, states still mandate districts to have truancy processes in place to ensure that families understand their legal obligations for student attendance. These measures have historically been punitive and ineffective. However, there are restorative answers to truancy that can not only bring back more days of instruction, but strengthen relationships and nurture a more positive school culture. Let's delve into four pivotal ways that a restorative approach to truancy can enhance your entire school community. 

1. Better Family-School Relationships

In our research, we have found that traditional truancy letters are simply not resonating with families nor inspiring them to take action. This ranges from frustrations around being  notified of their student’s attendance challenges too late, no offers of support, and legalese that left them feeling angry, scared, and sad. Instead of alienating families with threatening and punitive messages, a restorative approach that engages families as partners in improving attendance and academic achievement can nurture the collaboration needed for true success. A clear and well-communicated attendance policy that is reinforced with proactive attendance nudges along with informative and accessible truancy notices create channels for open dialogues that foster understanding and empathy. 

As families become integral partners in their student’s educational journey, it creates a support network extending beyond the classroom. This collaboration leads to more effective truancy and attendance interventions and makes school more likely to be a place where students and families want to be.

2. Family Empowerment & Responsibility

Rather than imposing punitive measures, positive truancy messaging reminds families that they have the agency and power to get students back on track for success and encourages families to take action. Most truancy letters have a harsh, legalistic tone. After rigorous testing and research, we found there was a much more effective way to inform families of their student’s attendance and also stay within compliance. 

At the heart of any truancy initiative is the goal of better attendance. But most truancy notices don’t move the needle at all. In contrast, truancy letters from Truancy Support have been proven to be 40% more effective in reducing absences than standard notices. They remind families not only why attending school is important, but that they have the power to get their student’s attendance back on track. This empowering messaging resonates better with families, and motivates them to take positive action.  

3. Better School Climate

Misunderstandings and miscommunications can quickly chip away at the work you do every day to create a positive school culture. A restorative approach to truancy embraces open communication, empathy, and accountability, creating an atmosphere where students and families feel valued and heard. 

Oftentimes, unexcused absences may actually involve incidents that could easily have been excused. If relationships between families and schools are stronger, conversations around missed days and their reasons are easier to have. Having good visibility into whether truancy meetings have been scheduled before sending out a truancy notice can help, as well as more frequent conversations around the importance of attending every day. This, in turn, enhances overall student well-being and satisfaction, ultimately resulting in a safer and more inclusive learning environment. 

4. Get to the Root Cause for Better Attendance

Truancy often has complex underlying causes, ranging from family issues to academic struggles and personal challenges. Traditional truancy measures often leverage punitive actions that speak to the problem but fail to address the root causes. A restorative approach delves into these root causes, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all solution is not effective. By understanding each student's unique situation, the school district can offer personalized interventions that genuinely address their needs. 

The EveryDay Pro MTSS platform makes getting to the root cause and creating interventions simpler with quick insights into recorded student barriers to attendance and automatically surfaced attendance patterns & trends.. Meanwhile, Truancy Support personalizes, prints, & sends truancy notices to eligible students, and instead of working the printers, staff have more time to provide tailored interventions that meet students' unique needs.

Looking for a more restorative approach to truancy but unsure where to begin? Truancy Support is a great start. Innovative technology identifies truant students and sends restorative truancy notices written for families, not lawyers, with just one click. 

Getting students on track starts with attendance. We can help.