In the first two articles in our three-part series, we described why chronic absenteeism can be such a challenge to students’ long-term success, and how one school district, East Central ISD in San Antonio, implemented an innovative, data-driven approach to tackle attendance issues.
Now, in this final article, we’ll offer some best practices that any school or district can consider to successfully reduce absenteeism rates and increase student engagement. Many of these recommendations describe better ways to detect and respond to possible underlying issues, such as health or family issues.
We will also describe how innovative schools are now making better use of data and technology to gain valuable new insights—a powerful advantage in proactively addressing chronic absenteeism.
A fundamental approach to addressing chronic absenteeism
Teachers are accustomed to starting a new school year with activities such as setting up their classroom and developing lesson plans. In addition, they should also think about specific strategies related to absenteeism.
In many cases, success can start with a new mindset and a proactive plan to promote good attendance—before absenteeism even becomes an issue. For example, teachers can take the following steps to encourage attendance while devising an effective plan if absenteeism starts to become an issue:
- Create specific attendance goals/expectations and clearly communicate them to students and parents as early in the school year as possible.
- Develop incentive-based programs to promote and reward good attendance.
- Strive to build the best relationship possible with students in order to reinforce the importance and long-term positive effects of good attendance.
- Develop the best support framework as possible by including as many adults as possible (teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, and staff) to watch for potential absence issues.
- Investigate whether school administrators are open to in-school alternatives to out-of-school suspensions.
- Coordinate walking groups or ride sharing for those struggling with transportation.
- Encourage families to ask for help if additional support is needed.
- Work with students to develop good habits at home to make sure they’re doing all they can to make it to school.
Identifying and reacting to real health issues
As we described in our first article, health issues such as asthma, diabetes, anxiety, obesity, and mental health are very real reasons why some students may miss school. If teachers and schools suspect that health issues such as these are contributing to a student’s absenteeism, they can consider the following strategies:
- Implement an early warning system to proactively identify those students at the greatest risk.
- Create a positive, supportive climate to communicate and promote the many benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
- Enlist additional staff members to increase the collective ability to support students with additional health issues.
There are additional tools and strategies, too. For example, under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are encouraged to include chronic absenteeism rates as part of their annual report card.
Going forward, this information will be helpful, both as a better way to communicate actual absences, but also to call attention to the reasons behind each day missed, including related health issues. These new insights may push schools to make sure staff receives the right training, and if necessary, to develop new strategies to deal with additional health concerns.
The right data leads to attendance improvement
Finally, many schools are turning to technology to help address chronic absenteeism. For example, a powerful analytics solution can consolidate many different types of data—information such as students’ attendance, grades, assessments, and much more.
A new resource for student success
If you’re looking for additional best practices to engage students and create more successful outcomes, we have some good news.
Our new eBook, “Seven Ways Real-Time Data Can Improve Student Success,” highlights specific ways data can help schools drive better results. Download this eBook today.