November 2, 2023

MTSS Corner: Using MTSS to Support Chronically Absent Students

Chronic absenteeism continues to stymie learning recovery nationwide, posing lasting impacts on student achievement, graduation rates, and career success.  Many districts have adopted Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to meet this challenge head on, a holistic and data-driven framework that provides tailored interventions for students based on their chronic absenteeism rate. MTSS can be used to improve attendance by providing students with personalized interventions and support at every tier of the pyramid. In this blog post, we'll explore how to use MTSS effectively to provide all students with the strategic support they need to get their attendance back on track and reach their full potential.  

Understanding Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school days, counting absences that were excused and unexcused, because every missed opportunity to learn and connect with classmates and teachers matters. MTSS groups students into three different tiers, based on their level of absenteeism: 

  • Tier 1: Satisfactory Attendance (missing <5%) & At-Risk (missing 5-9%)
  • Tier 2: Moderate Chronic Absence (missing 10-19%)
  • Tier 3: Severe Chronic Absence (missing 20%+) 

Chronic absenteeism is often a symptom of other challenges, such as health issues, family challenges, or disengagement. Students who are chronically absent are often on average facing 5 barriers to attendance. To effectively address these challenges at scale, MTSS can be a powerful tool, helping students get back on track and improving their attendance.

Using MTSS to Support Chronically Absent Students

Having clear and accurate data is an important requirement for an effective MTSS. An MTSS attendance platform like EveryDay Pro will automatically identify the amount of students in every tier to help you gain a full understanding of where students are attendance-wise and inform what kinds of interventions you may need to implement.

EveryDay Pro automatically identifies the amount of students in each attendance tier at the district and school level

To help you identify specific students who need support, an MTSS platform like EveryDay Pro will filter and list students at every tier to help you develop individualized attendance plans and implement targeted and intensive interventions as needed.

EveryDay Pro is the only platform that surfaces attendance patterns, including missed days of the week and early absences.

The right intervention and course of action can depend on which tier the student may be in. This graphic illustrates these supports at a glance:

By using MTSS, schools can provide students who are chronically absent with the support they need to succeed. Let’s dive into some more specific examples of supports and interventions to improve student attendance, based on where they fall in the pyramid.  

Tier 1: Universal Supports

Tier 1 Universal Supports are provided to all students in the school, designed to create a positive school climate and to promote positive behaviors and attendance. Having strong strategies in place to support all students is essential to ensure that fewer students fall through the cracks and into a more severe tier. This prevents your pyramid from getting turned upside down, where time and resource-heavy Tier 3 supports become the primary focus and preventative measures are no longer enough.  

Here are some examples:

  1. Attendance awareness campaigns: Many families believe that students can miss as many days as necessary, as long as they’ve excused the absence. Raising awareness around why every day matters, and communicating the impact of attendance on academic, social, and career success helps everyone feel invested and committed to keeping attendance on track.  You can even download this mini-poster and hang it up to help communicate the importance of attendance. Additionally, setting clear attendance expectations and communicating them to students and families will help clarify any mixed messages around expectations. 
  2. EveryDay Intervention: the proven effective attendance intervention tracks attendance data districtwide and sends mail and text nudges on your behalf to families of students who are or at risk of becoming chronically absent. This proactive, preventative solution keeps families informed of their students’ actual attendance and how it compares to other students in their class. Additionally, it connects families to district and community resources to help them overcome barriers to attendance like transportation, wellness, and housing. 
  3. Positive school climate: Creating a welcoming and inclusive school environment can make students more likely to attend regularly, and adding in attendance recognition programs can help keep students and families motivated and acknowledged for their efforts.
  4. Early identification: Getting ahead of attendance challenges early is essential to keeping your MTSS pyramid sustainable. A data dashboard like EveryDay Pro identifies attendance patterns and trends quickly to help you address absenteeism challenges promptly, at the earliest signs of chronic absenteeism. 

Tier 2: Targeted Interventions

As chronic absenteeism worsens to missing 10-19% of school days, Tier 2 should be leveraged to offer more targeted interventions, including: 

  1. Personalized early outreach: EveryDay Intervention is not only an effective way to get ahead of attendance challenges, but it also plugs into Tier 2 interventions by providing personalized mail and text nudges that encourage both long term and short term positive changes. 
  2. Mentoring and counseling: Pairing students with mentors or counselors who provide guidance, support, and a safe space for discussing attendance issues can have a huge impact. For example, pairing high needs students with a caring mentor through the Success Mentors program in NYC Public Schools had such a profound impact in reducing absenteeism that it was scaled to a national level. 
  3. Family engagement: Working closely with families to understand and address the root cause of absenteeism is essential to getting students back on track. But, connecting families to resources can be time-intensive work for already busy educators.  EveryDay Intervention’s dedicated Family Support Team and Family Support Bot helps connect families to district & community resources on your behalf, helping families access the tools they need to mitigate and overcome barriers to attendance. 
  4. Individualized attendance plans: To help mitigate and address barriers to attendance and get students back in school, developing highly individualized plans that also provide additional academic support, enrichment, and connections to social-emotional resources can also be helpful. 

Tier 3: Intensive Interventions

For students with severe or persistent absenteeism, the third tier of MTSS provides intensive support, including: 

  1. Home visits: A practice that is increasingly adopted by districts across the country, home visits help you connect with hard to reach families and build positive relationships. Here are 11 tips for a great home visit before you head out to make those critical, in person connections. 
  1. Wraparound services: Students with severe absenteeism are likely dealing with numerous barriers to attendance, and may need extra support from community agencies, social workers, and other services that can provide the holistic support they need to address more complex challenges. A dashboard like Everyday Pro can help you connect the dots across these services and your own outreach with the ability to track notes and ongoing interventions. 
  1. Re-entry support: For students who have been absent for an extended period, welcoming them back with intentional support helps ensure a smooth transition back to school and encourages them to continue attending every day.

Monitoring Progress

As interventions and supports are implemented throughout the year, be sure to continuously monitor student progress. Has their attendance improved? Maybe it’s time for a special recognition or a high five. Has attendance worsened? Perhaps ramping up interventions can be useful. Regularly review attendance data to ensure that your interventions are having a positive impact, and reflect and adjust as needed to maximize their effectiveness.

Looking for an MTSS platform to support your efforts? Here are five tips to guide your search

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