August 15, 2023

7 Myths About Attendance Communications

You’re a dedicated educator willing to try anything to help improve attendance, academic outcomes, and overall student success. Countless tools and strategies are peddled to you daily to help your efforts. But before you decide on what strategies and solutions to put front and center in this year’s initiatives, it’s good to take a moment and separate myth from momentous change.

When it comes to a complex challenge like chronic absenteeism, there are numerous strategies needed to find success. For many districts, one popular solution has been intentionally sending attendance communications. Many have been encouraged by reduced rates of absenteeism, but others are still skeptical about how they should be deployed, and whether they’re worth doing at all. Let’s dive into 7 common myths about attendance communications and get to the truth.

1: We only need to send out communications when students are truant

It is certainly true that districts are mandated by the state to send truancy letters to families whose student has missed too many days without an excuse. But not only are current truancy practices punitive and ineffective, but many truancy challenges could have been prevented with a more proactive approach. 

 Subscribing to this myth also ignores the fact that every missed day of school matters, even when excused. When students aren’t in attendance, they miss out on all of the great investments that your district has invested in and on social time with their peers, pushing them further behind in a landscape already fraught with loneliness and learning loss.

2: Ok, but then they should only go to students who are chronically absent

Students who are chronically absent can absolutely benefit from attendance communications. But sending proactive and supportive attendance communications to families of students who are at risk of being chronically absent helps get the conversation started sooner. For either at-risk or chronically absent students, if you leverage a program like EveryDay Intervention, you’ll be easily able to connect families to district and community resources that help them overcome barriers to attendance and get back on track for success. 

3: Personalization doesn’t really matter, we just need to get the message out there

Think about it—don’t you pay extra attention when messaging is addressed to you and clearly speaks to your interests and priorities? The same is true of attendance communications. While it may be tempting to just send out attendance communications en masse, your message may be falling on deaf ears. Attendance nudges from EveryDay Intervention, for example, are personalized with the family’s and student’s names, their precise amount of absences, and an accurate comparison to the class average.  Because families often have no idea exactly how many days their student has missed, informative and accurate nudges can inspire families to get back on track because they’re tailored specifically to them.

4: Teachers should be responsible for sending these out

Schools and teachers are stretched thinner than ever before, and many teachers are leaving the profession, citing burnout as one of the top reasons. While some platforms tout the benefits of giving teachers the tools to send out attendance communications, it’s worth thinking twice before burdening them with yet another task that could be done just as well by a dedicated partner. Teachers are often the most trusted figure at school for families, and their talents are much better spent building relationships and offering more intensive support than delivering Tier I attendance interventions.  

5: They confuse and annoy families

OK, this myth may have a kernel of truth. Sometimes, families may receive an attendance communication and feel indignant: “But I excused these absences!” However, these moments can be the perfect opportunity to get the conversation going about the importance of attending every day. Building a culture of attendance in your district is critical to getting those attendance rates up, and attendance communications will help everyone understand why it’s important to attend each and every day.

Keeping the lines of communication open is essential. Remember, implementing an effective attendance communication plan is not just about notifying individuals of absences; it should also provide opportunities for families to explain their circumstances, ask questions, and seek support.   

6: Letters in the mail?! It’s 2023— attendance communications should only be sent digitally. 

Not only is mail having a moment right now across generations, but it’s historically been a more equitable and effective way to reach all families. Highly mobile families who are experiencing economic insecurity often keep their mailing address updated, more so than their phone number. Since the USPS will forward their mail along in case their address has changed and the family never updated the school, leveraging the mail can result in more families receiving your communications than just text alone.

Of course, sending communications via mail and text can be especially effective. A benefit of a letter is that it acts as a social artifact, something tangible you can hold or hang on the fridge as a reminder. This encourages positive shifts in the long term. On the flip side, sending regular text reminders can help spur short term change. Together, a multimodal system will help you see improvements all around.

7: They don’t really work and are a waste of time and money

 It’s possible that some attendance communications haven’t worked. Perhaps they weren’t personalized, nor sent proactively or consistently.  But when done correctly, districts can see real impact from attendance communications. EveryDay Intervention, for example, has been proven in over 14 randomized controlled trials to reduce absenteeism by 11-15%.

 Speaking of wasted time and money: billions of dollars in instructional resources and wellness services that the nation’s schools have invested in go to waste when students aren’t present to benefit. It’s more critical than ever to try out innovative solutions that will bring more students in to learn and grow every day.

 Want to learn more about attendance communications that really work? Reach out to an attendance expert at EveryDay Labs!

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