Each year, over 8 million students miss 18 or more days of school due to absences. When a student misses 10% of the school year, they are considered chronically absent. Being chronically absent is detrimental for students, schools, and communities alike. AllHere’s VP of Education Impact shares what we can do to reduce chronic absenteeism.
For the 8 million students who are chronically absent, there is a myriad of negative implications. First and foremost, academic success is adversely impacted due to the multiple missed opportunities for classroom teaching and learning. Research shows chronically absent students are more likely to lack basic skills, perform lower on tests, have behavior challenges, and have a higher likelihood of not graduating from high school. Furthermore, chronic absenteeism subverts school performance initiatives and halt federal, state and district-wide educational reforms. In addition, communities suffer, because community resources can become strained given those who are absent from school opt-out of the available health and human service supports provided at schools.
What needs to be done
Many researchers and practitioners agree that reducing chronic absenteeism is complex, but it can be done. At the district level, we have to have attendance and chronic absenteeism practices and policies that are not punitive towards students and families but empowers schools to be innovative in discovering and meeting critical needs. At the school level, it involves a comprehensive approach to improving students’ and families’ educational experiences.
These improvements can include:
A positive school climate that welcomes and encourages students and their families. Simultaneously, ensuring that the school does not produce traumatic experiences.
Strengthening the relational ties between students, families, and teachers. Greater communication and collaboration between the home and school is a benefit for everyone.
Relevant instruction that encourages student engagement and achievement.
Collaborating with community members and public and private institutions to leverage resources, services, and support for the school community.
How we can do it
Good attendance and effective chronic absenteeism practices and policies come from deep problem analysis of why students are missing school. With the found insight and evidence, it should be used to align with the appropriate evidence-based strategy with a direct and timely response to the student and family. Said another way, the right insight, with the right intervention, at the right time, with the right student.
Use technology and innovation as a driver for change. Automated phone calls to students’ homes are no longer innovative, however, using technology to discover new insights to help students and families is.
Discover the root causes of chronic absenteeism. No more guessing and using limited resources indiscriminately. Using technology to help discover the root causes.
Use data analytics tools to discern trends and patterns to inform practice and policies. We have to closely track students’ progress, strategies and overall impact to make wise adjustments. Data analytics also helps to differentiate students and strategies through multi-tiered systems. This is an on-going process
Include student and family voices to inform practice and policies. We have to be strategic and intentional in using their voice as a guide to understanding their challenges and employing new strategies.
Employ cross-sector collaborative teams to help do the work. Single sector teams find themselves with limited resources to intervene. This practice is insufficient in addressing today’s complex challenges that impede attendance. Employing cross-sector teams from law, social services, family, higher education and business ensures that there are diverse ideas, resources, and access points to students and families.
There are 8 million students missing school each year – the equivalent of the entire population of New York – who need our help, our action, and our leadership. I invite you to schedule a demo with the AllHere team to find out how we can partner together to get more students coming to school every day.
Dr. Aaron T. Jennings, MSW
VP of Education Impact