A student who misses at least 15 days of school in a school year is considered to be chronically absent. About 1 in 7 students in the United States fall into this category, making it very hard for them to be successful in school. A wide variety of factors impact a child’s ability to make it to school each day, including health challenges, difficult family situations, bullying at school, lack of transportation and safety concerns.
Students in every grade level are affected by chronic absenteeism, but the rate tends to rise at the high school level. Children who are chronically absent at the beginning of their school career — preschool, kindergarten and first grade — are more likely to fall behind early in areas like reading. This can lead to not only more absenteeism, but even dropping out of school altogether as a teen
September is Attendance Awareness Month! Here are five ways to combat chronic absenteeism and create a school community that actively supports student attendance:
- Positive Attendance Messaging
Everyone from teachers and administrative staff to other community members can help build a welcoming school climate by using supportive language in all communications, from face-to-face and emails to outdoor signage. A supportive school culture that shows a safe, respectful and caring community can go a long way in making students and their parents feel comfortable — comfortable attending school and comfortable asking for help when attendance gets hard.
- Parent Involvement
Encouraging parent involvement can be critical to decreasing student absenteeism. Younger students rely on parents and other family members to get them prepared and out the door for school each day. Older students, while more independent, can still benefit from a close family member or trusted parent checking in on their school experience.
- Automated Attendance Alerts
Utilize school notification systems or activities that are already in place to distribute attendance messages. Incorporate the importance of attendance at events early in the school year like back-to-school night, orientation and parent-teacher conferences. Provide consistent messaging throughout the year in school newsletters, on the website and on social media. When a student is absent, use an alert system like SwiftK12 to automatically notify parents or guardians with a personalized message using their preferred communication method.
- Listen to the Students
Give students the opportunity to tell you what's keeping them from school. A product like Speak Up! allows students to anonymously report bullying and other unsafe behavior via text or voice. By using the platform, students are able to easily report dangerous behavior without worrying about repercussions from other students. Speak Up! enables quick communication between students and school administration and removes the fear of retaliation.
- Student Attendance Incentives
Providing incentives for students can help increase attendance. Be careful not to only reward those students with perfect attendance, but to also reward students for making progress on improving attendance. Rewards can be individual or school-wide.