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New Federally Funded Research Shows That Text Messaging Drives Attendance Up

Cynthia Rogan September 23, 2020

Chronic absence – defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days – is a nationwide problem. Those with poor attendance are more likely to face challenges later in school and in life. 

Text messaging as a way to improve student attendance has the strongest evidence base in the field. In a series of randomized controlled trials, the adaptive text messaging approach has been shown to increase student attendance and increase child learning by 2 to 3 months over the course of a school year (Bergman & Chan, 2019; IES, 2020). 

Our product extensions also draw on research from the broader field of text message-based engagement. We have been particularly inspired by these September 2020 findings by the Institute of Education Sciences, which is the independent, non-partisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education, that support the AllHere approach.

Two Key Findings

  1. Adaptive text messaging produces results. During the fall of the study year, families randomly assigned to one the text messaging groups received “basic” messaging, which consisted of low-cost, low-burden weekly reminders about the importance of attendance and same-day notifications when their children missed school. In the spring, messages were “adapted:” parents of students with few absences continued with the basic messaging, while the parents of the students who were frequently absent in the fall received additional intensified and personalized messaging. The study compared two approaches and found that the messaging lowered the chronic absence rate, with a larger reduction for students with a prior history of high absence.
  2. The two approaches to basic messaging were similarly effective at reducing chronic absence, but one approach to intensified messaging was better than the other for certain students. The basic messaging focused on either the benefits of attending school or the consequences of being absent – similar to what you would find in a mail-based attendance report. But for those who received intensified messaging and had a prior history of high absence, text messages reduced chronic absence rates more.

The findings, which reinforce those in Dr. Peter Bergman’s pioneering randomized controlled trial about the impact of sending personalized text messages to families regarding student attendance, and are particularly exciting to us at AllHere, especially in an era where chronic absenteeism has risen to heights heretofore unseen in our nation’s history.

A leader in applying educational research, AllHere is continuously evaluating and improving the program with multiple randomized controlled trials and ongoing evaluations that generate evidence of the AllHere approach reaching ESSA Tier 1 standards.

View a PDF of essential studies to text messaging on the attendance and academic achievement of students below.

Want to talk about the research? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]

Studies

Leveraging Parents through Low-Cost Technology: The Impact of High-Frequency Information on Student Achievement

Bergman, P. & Chan, E.W. (2019)

We partnered a low-cost communication technology with school information systems to automate the gathering and provision of information on students’ academic progress to parents of middle and high school students. We sent weekly, automated alerts to parents about their child’s missed assignments, grades, and class absences. The alerts reduced course failures by 28%, increased class attendance by 12%, and increased student retention, though there was no impact on state test scores. There were larger effects for below-median GPA students and high school students. 

View PDF

Can Texting Parents Improve Attendance in Elementary School? A Test of an Adaptive Messaging Strategy

Heppen, J.B., Kurki, A., & Brown, S. (2020).

Chronic absence is a nationwide problem, even among young students. This report presents findings from a study that tested four versions of an adaptive text messaging strategy to see which, if any, would reduce chronic absence and improve achievement among 26,000 elementary school students. All four versions of the adaptive text messaging strategy reduced chronic absence. 

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