Alert Solutions Blog

Anxiety-Fueled School Refusals - How Do They Impact Truancy?

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 @ 10:04 AM

Parents and educators struggle daily with children and students not wanting to go to school. That’s normal. When children and students completely refuse to go to school it becomes worrisome. Truancy is detrimental to a student’s success in school, and when a child is chronically absent grades slip and sometimes it is impossible to recover academically.

The Impact Truancy has on Student Academic Success

Truancy measures the number of unexcused absences a child has in school. Healthy Children has a number of startling statistics on chronic truancy in the United States, including the fact that it affects 6.5 million students nationwide. That’s nearly 13% of the total student population! Healthy Children states, “Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. For older students, being chronically absent is strongly associated with failing at school―even more than low grades or test scores.” A student who misses a lot of school is also more likely to drop out, or fail out without graduating.

There are a number of factors that could lead to a student missing school, and one of them is anxiety. About 5% of children have school related anxiety, which leads to them refusing to attend school.

A Closer Look at Anxiety-Fueled School Refusals

Anxiety-Fueled School Refusal - Truancy

According to KQED News, mental health professionals are taking a closer look at the run-of-the-mill truancy, and are now referring to some cases of chronic absenteeism as “school refusal”. This can be triggered by several factors including anxiety, depression, family crises, and other traumatic events, which can lead to weeks or even months of missed school days.

There is a lot to be said about the earlier manifestation of anxiety and mental health disorders in children and young adults. According to a study by the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics there are approximately 2 million American children and adolescents that have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are also known to peak during the school year. This could be because of several factors such as student stress levels due to course load, or bullying and cyber bullying incidents.

Typically, anxiety develops for students when they are transitioning from middle school to high school, or often comes to light as young as age 5 to 6 years old. In younger children it’s a lot more difficult to determine if a child is developing a mental health disorder, as the symptoms are harder to read and present themselves as negative behaviors. The Washington Post explains, “Parents and educators are quick to spot the behavior problem, but they don’t always see the underlying anxiety that drives it… The challenge often lies in the fact that kids might experience these emotions for the first time, without warning. They don’t necessarily know how to connect the dots between a racing heart, a stomach ache, feeling dizzy and anxiety.”

School Refusals: When to Intervene

When should teachers and school administrators intervene when they notice school refusals? The short answer is as soon as possible. The earlier the intervention, the more likely a student can get back on track. The longer the child is avoiding school, the more likely they are to fall behind and experience more drastic consequences. According to the Carrier Clinic, children with unresolved anxiety can often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, and make rash decisions that protect them in the short term. “One study found that teenagers and young adults ages 14 to 24 with social anxiety were nearly 3 times as likely to develop depression later in life than those without the anxiety disorder.”

A key way to addressing student truancy due to anxiety is by getting parents involved. No parent wants their child to drop out of school. Keeping open lines of communication with parents and guardians not only keeps them fully involved in their child’s education, but it’s also an easy way to determine if a student has a string of absences that could be related to anxiety or a mental health disorder.

Alert Solutions recommends using an automated attendance alert, which sends home a message to parents or guardians using their preferred communication method. Not only does this make both students and parents accountable, but it’s also extremely easy to set up with our school notification platform, SwiftK12!

With the increased pressure for K-12 schools to address chronic truancy, we’ve also developed a guide to help tackle and reduce absenteeism. Want to learn more? Download the guide below!

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Topics: student health, attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, truancy

Education's New Partner in Battling Chronic Truancy: Pediatricians

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 07, 2019 @ 14:03 PM

It’s no secret; chronic truancy is detrimental to student achievement. Students who do not attend school regularly are more likely to not do well academically, or even drop out of school all together. A shocking statistic unveils more than 6.5 million US children, about 13% of all students, miss 15 days or more each year. This doesn’t just apply to middle school and high school. The American Academy of Pediatrics states “at least 10 percent of kindergarten and first-grade students miss a month or more of the school year, while about 19 percent of all high school students are chronically absent.”

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There are many factors that contribute to high chronic absenteeism. Children who are exposed to major trauma such as domestic violence, have recently experienced a natural disaster, or have a history of maltreatment are more likely to experience absenteeism. AAP explains “these children are also more likely to experience other risk factors for chronic absenteeism, including poor mental and behavioral health, poor health outcomes, poverty, homelessness, and frequent school changes.”

Poor health seems to be a large factor in chronic absenteeism. A study in central Texas by the Austin-based E3 Alliance “found that 52 percent of absences were due to chronic or acute illness. By contrast, skipping school accounted for 5 percent.” Luckily, educators has a new partner to help with the growing truancy problem; pediatricians. There is strong evidence showing physical and mental health interventions are helping to improve student attendance.

How Pediatricians Can Help Reduce Truancy

The American Academy of Pediatrics released an extensive report covering proven measures to help reduce truancy, including the following recommendations for pediatricians and their colleagues:

  • Emphasize the value of developing good school attendance habits from an early age.
  • When children and their parents come in, pediatricians are also encouraged ask about the number of school days missed within the month during every visit.
  • Document children's medical needs for an Individualized Education Program or 504 Plan when needed for access to services that optimize learning opportunities.
  • Encourage parents and families to share any and all health concerns with the school nurse on staff.
  • Give guidance on when students should stay home from school and when they should not. For example: Lice is not a reason to stay home from school.
  • When the absence is not appropriate, do not write absence excuses.
  • Always have children return to school when their appointment shows they are well enough.
  • Work with K-12 schools to promote and advocate policies that promote school attendance.

Four Health Strategies from AAP

AAP also put together several strategies that K-12 schools can implement to promote school attendance and tackle chronic absenteeism through healthcare.

  1. Infection Prevention
    Absenteeism isn’t always a malicious way to get out of school work as many students fall sick during the school year forcing them to miss school. Schools are known to be a source of many wide-spread illnesses such as common colds and influenza. Hand hygiene interventions are one way schools are working to battle truancy. Promoting the use of hand sanitizers and hand-washing helped with reducing sicknesses. According to AAP, “in addition to studies of hand hygiene interventions, school-located influenza vaccination programs have been shown to reduce school absenteeism during influenza season.”

  2. School Nurses
    Having a full-time school nurse on staff plays a significant role when it comes to student attendance. “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses recommend a minimum of 1 full-time professional school nurse in every school, recognizing that the ideal nurse-to-student ratio varies depending on the needs of the student population”.

  3. School-Based Health Centers
    According to AAP, a school-based health center provides health services to students who may have been sent home or missed school because of illnesses and injuries or attending medical appointments for management of chronic health problems. These health centers include care for dental services, preventative services, mental services, and behavioral health services.

  4. Mental Health Care
    In a recent blog post we covered the importance of educators looking out for mental health concerns among their students. As K-12 schools are the place young people spend the majority of their days, educators are the first line of defense. Schools play an important role in identifying early warning signs, addressing mental health concerns, and providing help and care.

Not everything is black and white. Chronic truancy and absenteeism have many influencers and healthcare is only one of them. Whether a student is experiencing extreme anxiety about being in school, or has fallen ill and caught a bad stomach bug, missing school has extreme effects on student success and graduation rates.

Alert Solutions works with K-12 schools and districts across the country to help reduce chronic truancy. Schools using SwiftK12, our school notification system, send out automated attendance alerts notifying parents and guardians on whether their child is in school. These alerts not only help increase parent communication, but they also  save hours of time for school staff each day, and most importantly, have been known to help increase student attendance rates.

Download our Reducing Chronic Truancy Guide for helpful tips, tricks, and strategies to battle absenteeism.

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Topics: student health, attendance, school announcement, Medical, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, truancy

5 Creative Ways to Improve Student Attendance in K-12 Schools

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Feb 07, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

An unfortunate but commonly discussed topic in education is the increase of chronic truancy in K-12 school districts across the country. Legally, a chronic truant is defined as “a child of compulsory school age who is absent from public school without legitimate excuse for absence.”

According to the US Department of Education, over six million students missed 15 or more days of school in a recent school year. That’s 14% of the population, or one in seven students not showing up to classes.

Teacher Taking Student Attendance

It is common sense to know when students are not in school, they are not learning. There have been many studies that show us that student attendance directly correlates with student achievement. The more students are in school, the better they perform academically.

Sadly, students skip school for various reasons. Evidence Based Teaching lists a few causes: students are anxious when at school, have social issues, are not performing well academically, lack the drive to do well in school, or parental involvement is low. Other factors could also include socio-economic status, school climate and staff morale. Evidence Based Teaching states “chronically absent students view their relationships with their teachers (or lack thereof) as the most important factor of all.”

As a teacher, there are things you can do to improve attendance and encourage your students to come to school.

5 Tips to Improve Student Attendance in Your Classroom

  1. Show Students They Are Important
    Many teachers are passionate about their roles in teaching, which makes it easy to connect with students on a deeper level. It’s been shown that when students know you care about them, they are more likely to come to school. Be the teacher that stands out, shows an interest in students’ lives and extracurriculars, and engages with students outside of the classroom.

  2. Work to Build a Positive School Culture
    A positive school culture and engaged teachers go hand-in-hand. According to eSchoolNews, “when schools have a positive culture, students become more invested in their learning and excited about attending school. When schools don’t, students disengage and are less likely to have healthy attendance.” Schools are also beginning to take positive approaches to resolving truancy issues, instead of punishments and suspensions.

  3. Encourage Extracurricular Programs & Participation
    Extracurriculars are a great way to get students to enjoy being at school. Joining a sports team or after school club not only helps with social interaction, but it also boosts student attendance rates. Extracurricular activities run by teachers also strengthen bonds between themselves and the students. It’s been proven that schools with higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities have significantly raised student attendance rates.

  4. Student Incentives
    Student incentive programs could be a good way to improve attendance rates. Many assume incentives will be costly for K-12 schools and districts, but that is not the case. For example, “successful incentives can include extra recess time or homework passes. Class-wide incentives that encourage friendly competition between classes also tend to be powerful, as students can encourage their peers to attend school so that the entire group can benefit from the competition.” Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition!

  5. Get Parents Involved
    It’s no question that parental involvement in education is extremely important when it comes to student success. A study by Hanover Research states “improving student attendance may include communicating with families about student attendance, providing families with contact information at school, conducting attendance workshops, and offering after-school programs. Direct methods such as parent phone calls and regular attendance updates have also been associated with improved attendance rates.”

Improving student attendance is always on the mind of educators and teachers. Getting a good education is key to student success, and being in school is one way to do so.

Alert Solutions works closely with K-12 schools and districts to help increase attendance rates with SwiftK12’s Automated Attendance Alerts. Not only do they save hours of time for school staff, but it’s been proven that they’re a more efficient than manually contacting parents when students are absent. SwiftK12 helps monitor attendance and keeps school administrators, teachers, and parents informed of attendance concerns -  ultimately reducing absenteeism.

Reduce chronic truancy today. Check out our helpful strategy guide for tips & tricks!

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Topics: attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement, truancy

Attendance Awareness Month - Battle Absenteeism This School Year

Posted by Tara Gibson on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 12:09 PM

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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Topics: bullying, attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, truancy

Chronic Absenteeism? Make Next Year’s School Attendance Rates Soar!

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Jul 12, 2018 @ 11:07 AM

If your k-12 school system is challenged to maintain healthy student attendance, it’s far from alone.

The U.S. Department of Education reports chronic absenteeism is prevalent across the country - affecting all races and ethnicities of students. Data released this year shows 15 percent of all K-12 students in the U.S. — a whopping 8 million youth — were chronically absent over the 2015-16 school year. That’s a million more than the count in 2013-14.

Ultimately, that’s as problematic for the students as the schools missing out on the funding.

 Student In Classroom"Frequent absences from school can be devastating to a child's education,” advises U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in one DOE study. “Missing school leads to low academic achievement and triggers drop outs. Millions of young people are missing opportunities in post secondary education, good careers and a chance to experience the American dream."

In response, education analysts have developed tools around parent engagement and anti-bullying measures geared toward tackling chronic absenteeism. And summer can be an ideal time to work on your school’s improvement plan.

Research by Attendance Works shows parent engagement can have a profound effect on remediating absenteeism, which is why it advises schools to take steps such as orienting parents early about attendance expectations; communicating often and trying to build relationships with parents; providing parents with key school contacts and, when necessary, intervening through home visits or referrals to truancy officers.

The key is often careful and diligent management. “Don’t assume if a child is chronically absent it’s a signal parents do not care about the child’s education or attendance,” advises the study. “Ask about what they already do that works. Find out if they can think of any positive examples of activities or supports that made it easier to get their child to school.”

Helping solve bullying issues can also make a dent. A recent study found U.S. schools lose tens of millions of dollars annually when children miss school to avoid bullies, lowering daily average attendance rates that dictate governmental funding.

In one survey of public schools in California, 10.4 percent of students in grades 7, 9 and 11 reported missing at least one day of school over the previous month due to feeling unsafe. While most schools already have anti-bullying programs in place, your school may find significant room for improvement when it comes to management of real-life situations.

Talk to Alert Solutions about our school resources including best practices, tips, tricks and popular strategies related to chronic absenteeism and bullying prevention.

Education Resource Center

Topics: bullying, attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, truancy

Not My Child – 5 Ways Parents Can Help Control School Attendance

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Mar 01, 2018 @ 15:03 PM

Most every kid misses some school days due to illness, appointments or family obligations. Usually, missed lessons or assignments can be made up when absences are occasional.

But chronic truancy or absenteeism — typically defined by missing more than 10 percent of the school year — can make a significant dent in a student’s academic success.AutomatedAttendanceNotifications1-resized-600.jpg

In fact, a recent Department of Education study shows chronically absent students are at greater risk of missing early learning milestones, failing classes and not graduating on time.

This risk also goes beyond academics – students with poor school attendance are more likely to undergo poverty, have poor mental and physical health, and be involved in criminal activity as adults.

Such long-term student absenteeism is also pervasive in this country. The same study found more than 6 million students chronically absent over the course of one school year, with about one in seven missing up to three weeks of school.

And that problem is exacerbated when k-12 schools start to lose per-pupil government funding when student stats change as a result of school attendance. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act enacted in 2015, schools that regularly report absentee rates may receive federal funding for remediation.

How can parents help control school attendance? Consider the following:

  • Share the above statistics with your child and let him know how crucial school attendance is to their success.
  • Closely track and limit the “excused” absences your child takes for medical appointments, family events, illness, etc. When possible, schedule such appointments before or after school.
  • Find support through organizations such as Attendance Works.
  • Intervene immediately if you find your child is skipping school without your knowledge. Determine and address the reasons. Assistance from the school  may be necessary.
  • Encourage your child’s schools to adopt a school notification system that informs parents when absences are noted. Such systems can save schools time and labor while helping you monitor your child’s activities. 

With Alert Solutions, k-12 schools have the ability to automate daily attendance alerts to notify parents of their child’s absence right away. Talk to your school administrators about how this solution could help improve school attendance!

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Topics: attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, truancy

Year in Review: Alert Solutions’ Most Read Education Blog Posts of 2017

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 @ 14:12 PM

From launching our new SwiftK12 school notification system and receiving all three integration badges from PowerSchool to partnering with eChalk to offer customers content management for school websites, 2017 was another HUGE year for Alert Solutions’ education division.

Our education specialists were also hard at work providing k-12 school administrators with all the hot topics on our blog. Here are the most viewed education blog posts of 2017:  

1. 3 Everyday Strategies to Help Schools Improve Student Attendance Rates
Attendance is essential to academic success, but all too often, parents and students don’t realize how absences can add up to academic trouble. This blog post shared 3 everyday strategies k-12 schools an implement to improve student attendance.

2. K-12 Schools Turn to Digital Communication Tools to Meet ESSA Parent parentteacher1.jpgEngagement Mandate
In order to receive parent engagement funding, ESSA mandates that k-12 school districts conduct outreach to ‘all parents and family members’. Advocates of improving parent engagement say technology like school notification systems could help k-12 schools meet the law’s requirement.

3. Making the Most of Back-to-School Communication – 3 Tips for Your K-12 School
As students arrive for a new school year, k12 school administrators need to have a school communication strategy ready to go. To alleviate some of the back-to-school stress you may be experiencing, we’ve compiled 3 tips, including encouraging teacher-parent communication.

4. Improving School Safety – 4 Components of a Successful Emergency Preparedness Plan
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 828,000 students each year are victims of non-fatal victimization while on school property. This statistic is startling and demonstrates the importance of taking school safety seriously. To help, we’ve compiled 4 components of a successful emergency preparedness or school safety plan: form a team, define and share your school safety plan, improve student relationships, and implement a school notification system.

What was your favorite education blog post from 2017? Share your thoughts with us!

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Topics: attendance, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, truancy, parent communication, emergency preparedness

Bullying Can Cost K-12 Schools Millions in Lost Funding, New Study Shows

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Oct 31, 2017 @ 11:10 AM

According to Stomp Out Bullying, 8% of students stay home on any given school day because they’re afraid of being bullied.

When students are absent from school to avoid bullying and cyberbullying, states across the country lose millions of dollars in funding.

New research from The University of Texas at Austin highlights the hidden cost to communities in states that use student attendance rates to calculate public school funding.attendancehomelessstudents-resized-600.bmp

States including California, Texas and Illinois use a formula known as ‘average daily attendance’ to allocate certain school funds.

Average Daily Attendance is defined as the total days of student attendance divided by the total days of instruction.

Schools that receive funding based on this formula rather than their total student enrollment experience lower revenue when a student misses school. For example, California loses $276M in funding each year on average.

There is a strong correlation between school bullying and student attendance rates. Here are some statistics from a www.cyberbullying.org survey:

  • 500,000 students have stayed home from school many times because of bullying
  • 10% of the students surveyed  stayed home from school because of cyberbullying 
  • 4 million students skip school at some point during the school year due to bullying

K-12 schools need to focus on keeping students in school, and implementing an effective bullying prevention strategy is a great way to start.

Alert Solutions offers some great bullying prevention resources for k-12 schools including tips, tricks and popular strategies. Download them today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, truancy

More Than 25 Percent of U.S. School Teachers are Chronically Absent, Says Study

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 @ 14:09 PM

Chronic absenteeism is an important topic we discuss often on our blog -  especially each September during Attendance Awareness Month

However, most of the studies we share and the blog posts we write are about student absenteeism. In fact, chronic student absenteeism is a popular choice for the ‘fifth indicator’ of school quality for states implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It’s quite clear that student attendance is a top priority for k-12 school districts and local government officials, but what about teacher’s attendance?

According to a new study from the Thomas Fordham Institute, 28.3 percent of teachers in public schools miss at least 10 days throughout the school year.teacherdesk.png

Another interested takeaway from the study was that public school teachers are three times as likely to be absent from the classroom than charter school teachers. 

These statistics also varied drastically by location:

  • Nearly 75 percent of public school teachers in Hawaii are chronically absent.
  • Chronic absenteeism was four times more likely among public school teachers in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. 
  • In Nevada, public school teachers were seven times more likely to be chronically absent. 

Why does this matter? Well, research suggests teacher absences can hurt student achievement.

Also, it’s estimated that American taxpayers spend nearly $4 billion each year on substitute teachers and associated administration.

What do you think about these statistics? Share your thoughts on our blog!

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Topics: attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, truancy

Creating a Student Attendance Incentive Program at Your K-12 School – 4 Things to Consider

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 @ 13:09 PM

Student attendance is a simple and easy way to measure a student’s performance.  

Research shows that attendance is an important factor in student achievement – linked to better academic performance, higher graduation rates and fewer behavioral problems.  

One strategy for improving attendance rates at your k12 school is engaging parents, students and school administrators in an attendance incentive program.attendance.bmp

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Attendance Incentive Programs Don’t Need to Be Costly
Simple rewards like extra recess time and free homework passes can go a long way toward motivating students.

2. Avoid ONLY Recognizing Perfect Attendance
Perfect attendance isn’t always achievable, so try to reward improved attendance too!

3. Offer Incentives for Families, Not Just Students
Student attendance is a team effort and families appreciate access to resources like food and local events.

4. Focus on Parent Engagement and Parent Communication
Ensure families are aware of the student attendance incentive program and why student attendance matters for academic success through effective parent communication. Sending automated attendance alerts when their child is late or absent is also a great way to communicate expectations.

Creating a school climate that fosters a culture of good student attendance isn’t easy – everyone needs to participate!

What are you doing at your k-12 school to improve student attendance rates? Share your thoughts on our blog!

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Topics: attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, truancy

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