May 28, 2024

MTSS Corner: Nurture a Culture of Attendance & Maximize Every Learning Opportunity with Aligned MTSS Strategies

As the year comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to (get some rest), and then start setting yourself up for success in SY 24-25! Chronic absenteeism has been a challenge for districts across the country, and while big strides have been made, the challenge will likely persist into the new school year. With families and educators not always on the same page about the importance of attendance, building a strong culture of attendance is more important than ever before. 

MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) is a data-driven framework that helps educators ensure all students have access to the right supports for success. Perhaps you’re already leveraging this type of framework across your district. Aligning MTSS strategies with your family engagement programs and attendance initiatives can not only help you more efficiently bring families in as partners, but also ensure more students are benefiting from the extensive investments you’ve made towards learning acceleration. Tier by tier, read on for some tips to help you stay organized and effective as you work to build a culture of attendance, maximize learning opportunities through better attendance, and nurture success in school and beyond.

Tier 1: Universal Strategies for All Students

Just like in medicine, prevention can be the best cure for absenteeism. Building a culture of attendance is an essential place to begin: if families aren’t bought in on the importance of every day, you’ll have even more absenteeism mitigation work to do. Your MTSS pyramid should reflect this, with numerous initiatives in place for everyone to understand attendance and why it’s critical to student success. This can include:  

  • Clear Attendance Expectations: In advance of the new school year, take some time to review your attendance policy and make sure it’s clear not just for your families but for the larger team. Let the the three “C’s” of attendance policy: clear, concise, and communicated, guide you as you set the right tone for building a culture of attendance.   
  • Set up an attendance team: Attendance work can’t rest with one person, but instead must be a team-wide commitment. Bringing a handful of staff members together who regularly review data and ensure attendance remains a priority for all students can help keep all of your initiatives running smoothly.  
  • Positive School Climate: One of the biggest pieces to bringing students back to school is ensuring that it’s a fun and welcoming place where students are excited to learn every day. A welcoming and inclusive environment fosters a sense of belonging, encouraging regular attendance. Homerooms or advisories where students have a dedicated adult checking in with them every morning can help make it easier to connect with students in a more tight-knit setting, identify potential attendance concerns early on, and build a culture of belonging. These 4 strategies can also help support your planning efforts for next year!
  • Attendance Tracking and Data Analysis: As an attendance team and on your own, regularly monitoring attendance data to identify trends and student groups who may need additional support is essential. To ensure that no one is slipping through the cracks early on, an attendance partner can help you monitor attendance and send out proactive communications to families on your behalf, and provide tools that automatically flag patterns and trends, helping you get ahead of future challenges.
  • School- & District-Wide Attendance Celebrations: A healthy dose of competition and FOMO is a great way to get all students excited about attending every day. Our partners at Semitropic & Berkeley in California found motivating ways to incentivize all of their students for better attendance, with tailored attendance goals and March Madness competitions. Backing away from the “perfect attendance” awards, which can inadvertently become demotivating for some students, the goal is for everyone to attend as much as they possibly can.
  • Home Visits: Districts across the country have seen success in nurturing family-school partnerships through home visits, and in fact, these should be done at every tier to proactively build relationships and not stigmatize something that can be a positive experience. Home visits can certainly be particularly effective for the hard to reach families who may be facing complex challenges impacting attendance, and your MTSS dashboard should make it easy to record notes from these visits so that the entire team has easy insights. For tips on a great home visit, check out this post

Tier 2: Targeted Interventions for At-Risk Students

  • Early Warning Systems: As students progress into the at-risk category, you’ll want tools and systems to inform you when timely action is needed. Your attendance dashboard can help you by flagging worsening attendance and surfacing students at this tier. The MTSS dashboard from EveryDay Labs does all of this, and unlike other dashboards, it also automatically surfaces attendance patterns.  
  • Effective Family Communications: Playing a key role in Tier I as you strengthen family-school partnerships, these communications become even more essential as you inform families of student challenges and offer help. Family communications can be time consuming, especially when they must be personalized with a student’s actual attendance to feel relevant. Our partners love how our attendance intervention sends mail and text nudges to students who are or are at risk of becoming chronically absent on their behalf and connects families to district resources to help them get back on track for success.
  • Individualized Attendance Plans: Collaborate with families and teachers to create personalized plans that address underlying issues and promote consistent attendance. Your dashboard can be your best friend in this planning, giving you clear numbers that help inform your plan, and perhaps can be easily shareable with families and students to help them understand their plan. Our partners at Semitropic love leveraging the EveryDay Labs MTSS platform to not only create individualized attendance plans but also turn the screen around and show it to students to help them understand their attendance in real time. 
  • Family Conferences: Families are critical partners in improving attendance, and arranging individual conferences or even small focus groups with families to discuss concerns, brainstorm solutions, and build partnerships can be a great way to understand the reasons why students are missing school. Your MTSS platform can help you track progress of these meetings, logging notes visible to the rest of the team and tracking student progress. 
  • Check-Ins and Mentorship Programs: Pair striving students with mentors for regular check-ins, offering academic and social support.

Tier 3: Intensive Support for Chronically Absent Students

  • Supporting the Whole Child Wellbeing: Integrate strategies and supports to address anxiety, depression, or other mental health barriers that may make regular attendance difficult for students. Our partners at Pittsburgh have heavily invested in these kinds of supports— check out this webinar where Carrie Woodard, Director, School Counselors at Pittsburgh Public Schools shares the many ways they are connecting students to the mental health support they need for success. 
  • Community Resource Collaboration: While your district may have a multitude of supports at the ready to help your students and families overcome barriers to attendance, it can also be beneficial to tap into the resources from your larger community. Our intervention connects families to both district resources as well as those available via through the 24/7 Family Support Bot.

By taking an MTSS lens to attendance improvement & attendance culture-building, you can supercharge family partnerships, student attendance, and overall student outcomes. Prioritizing consistent attendance fosters a positive learning environment, empowers students to reach their full potential, and strengthens the partnership between schools and families. Looking for resources to support you in this work? We can help

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