April 4, 2024

You Know Attendance Matters. Do Your District’s Families?

You’ve seen the press and you’ve seen the numbers. Chronic absenteeism is a tremendous challenge facing educators, families, and students across the country, and educators like you are already working overtime to try and bring more students back into class. After all, we know that good attendance is closely correlated to better academic outcomes, higher graduation rates, and stronger connections to peers and educators. However, not all families and students are convinced that attending school regularly actually makes a difference. It’s never too late to change the narrative and effectively build a culture of attendance in your school and district.  In this post, we’ll explore five questions to consider as you help families understand the importance of attendance to their student’s success in school and beyond. 

1. How intentional, personalized, and widespread are your communications? 

Communicating isn’t easy. People are more distracted and busier than ever, and it’s been said that the average person needs to hear or read your message 7 times before taking action. Really honing in on the quality and frequency of your communications will be well worth the efforts as you bring families into the conversation and strengthen family partnerships. 

You may already be sending home communications about the importance of attendance, and it could be a good time to give them another review or even an upgrade. Effective communications should be concise and written at a 5th grade reading level to ensure accessibility for families of all different reading levels. They should also be empowering to families, gently reminding them that their student matters at school and that they have the power to get there more often.

Families of chronically absent students are often facing numerous barriers to attendance, which is why your communications must offer supportive language & resources that make it a little easier to get to school every day.

Finally, consider interventions that leverage snail mail! Not only does it make it more likely that highly mobile families will receive the message, but a letter becomes a social artifact that families may continue to return to as a reminder of why attendance matters. 

2. Do Families Understand the Real Numbers? 

Many students and families do not realize that missing a significant number of days of school is outside of the norm. In a survey of more than 5,700 secondary students who were chronically absent, 55% of respondents reported that they believed their rate of attendance was similar to their peers. 

Helping families understand the importance of good attendance can be challenging when families may think their student’s attendance is average, or not even that bad to begin with! It’s been found that families underestimate their student’s attendance by a factor of 2

As researchers at Brookings put it: “If we are going to get children back in school, these results call out for intervention. Parents need very clear, direct reporting about how much school their children are missing, especially if their children’s absenteeism creeps up into chronic territory.” 

That’s why personalized nudges not only showing the student’s actual attendance but how it compares to their classmates can help strike up an effective attendance conversation.The chronic absenteeism nudges in EveryDay Intervention were built on similar research, and can be a critical addition to your attendance initiatives.

3. How clear is your attendance policy? 

If families aren’t clear on what’s expected of them, it undermines your efforts to build a culture of attendance. After years of being told to stay home with even the slightest sniffle, it can be confusing and difficult to get back in the pre-pandemic routine again. That’s why it’s worth spending some time reviewing your attendance policy and reflecting on how well it’s been communicated. 

This is extra effective when it’s extra fun! Our partners at Elk Hills School District hold a popular monthly bingo night with prizes ranging from housewares to PBIS points. In between calling out numbers, attendees are quizzed on the district’s attendance policy. These friendly reminders of school expectations in a lighthearted setting help build trust and a culture of attendance across the entire community: families, students, and neighbors. 

4. Is everyone all in on the “Why”?

Many families, especially those with younger children, remain unconvinced that strong attendance really matters for their student’s success. But of course, research tells a much different story. 

By moving beyond just “it’s the rule” and Incorporating small bytes of this research into your communications, you can slowly build understanding and buy-in for why school matters.  At EveryDay Labs, we help our district partners emphasize that attendance matters in both our chronic absenteeism nudges and truancy notices, helping families not just understand their students’ attendance but why it matters. 

Many districts implement campaigns throughout the year that remind families why attending every day matters, from social connections to staying on track for graduation. You can even print out and hang up this mini-poster that reminds families why attendance is critical to their student’s success in school, and beyond. 

5. Are your incentives resonating? 

Perfect attendance awards can unintentionally become an additional demotivator for the students who have a particularly hard time getting to school. Instead, think about what gets your students and families excited, and leverage some FOMO and friendly competition to keep families and students alike motivated to keep coming to school every day, even when it may feel hard. Our partners at Semitropic set individualized goals for each student, and if they made their goal, they got to go on a big trip to Magic Mountain! Not only did a staggering 83% of students achieve their goal, but even truancy rates were reduced as more families called in to excuse an absence to make sure their student would stay on track with their goal and achieve the ultimate prize of the Magic Mountain trip. Check out this post for more on attendance incentives. 

Strong family-school partnerships are crucial for promoting positive attendance habits. By working together, you can create an environment where every student thrives and reaches their full potential. Attendance solutions can also help you open these conversations and strengthen family engagement. At EveryDay Labs, we’re here to help you streamline and expand your communications with families, access real-time attendance data, and encourage families to overcome barriers to attendance by connecting them to resources on your behalf.

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