September 12, 2022

A Nudge in the Right Direction: A small push can make a world of difference

New Year’s Day. A new home. A new school year. Each of these reset moments bring an exciting opportunity to harness the power of what behavioral scientists call the “fresh start effect.” As you create and implement your attendance improvement plan in the new school year, why not use nudges, another strategy informed by the science of behavioral change, to help you build on the momentum of a fresh start.

Dr. Todd Rogers, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard and the Chief Scientist at EveryDay Labs describes nudges as “unobtrusive interventions to promote desired behavior. That means there’s no mandate to do anything and no penalty assigned—just a reminder, sometimes enhanced, with a little personal information.”

Districts nationwide are using nudges to improve attendance and transform academic outcomes. Are you ready to learn more?

Hallmarks of an Effective Nudge 

Informative, not punitive 

Attendance work has historically leaned heavily towards addressing truancy, leveraging communications that are intimidating and sometimes threaten legal action. These types of messages have proven to be largely ineffective. A truancy letter is not a nudge. 

High impact attendance nudges feature personalized information tailored to the student, give context on their attendance expectations, and provide solutions to help improve it. 

Address root causes of absenteeism

Nudges should be informative, shared with intention, and be relevant and timely. Does it provide access to details on transportation, mental health resources, or food distribution? Don’t miss this crucial opportunity to connect families with resources that can help them overcome the root causes of their student’s absenteeism.

Fewer words, more clarity 

Our modern world of endless to-do lists and 24/7 messages is a challenge for everyone, and your school’s families are no exception. Not only are families busy juggling jobs and supporting loved ones, they also have widely varied literacy and numeracy skills. They need key information on attendance, deadlines, and district resources, and they need it fast. A nudge should consider a family’s time, presenting crucial information clearly and succinctly.

How districts are successfully using nudges to improve attendance 

Mail nudges 

Nudges sent through the mail, not crumpled at the bottom of a student’s backpack, have been proven to promote positive attendance shifts in the long term. A letter in the mail is tangible— it’s what behavioral scientists call a social artifact. Families can hold it in their hands and pin it to the fridge as a reminder of how important attendance is all year long.  

Mail has also been shown to reach a greater proportion of families. For example, highly mobile families are more likely to update their physical addresses with the US Postal Service and a lot less likely to update the school each time they get a new cell phone number. 

Text nudges

Educators aren’t limiting nudges to just one channel. Given that our phones are never too far away, a nudge sent via text can be a great way to keep attendance on a family’s radar. Research suggests that digital communications, like text messages, are best for conveying information that requires short-term action. And the text nudge becomes even more powerful when it can directly connect families to information on district and community resources to help them overcome barriers to attendance. 

You may be wondering where to find the time to send personalized nudges to the many families that may need them across your district in the midst of everything else on your plate. Let an expert handle that for you!  EveryDay Intervention is a proven-effective and award-winning attendance solution that leverages rigorously tested and strategically timed nudges to improve attendance across your entire district. Visit our website for more research & strategies!

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