Understanding the causes of chronic absenteeism and acting to improve attendance present huge challenges for building and district leaders.
And the challenges have only grown: chronic absenteeism has doubled from pre-pandemic rates to around 16 million students in 2022. Attendance matters because chronic absenteeism correlates with negative outcomes such as lower test scores or dropping out.
Educators, researchers, and policy makers are all struggling to address chronic absenteeism. That’s why we’ve gathered resources to support you, including evidence-based attendance interventions.
Two Types of Attendance Interventions
Despite the strong focus on improving attendance, researchers have identified relatively few evidence-based approaches. Two of these approaches are:
- Notification-based interventions
- Mentoring-based interventions
Notification-based interventions are fairly simple to implement. They include both sharing with family members how many school days a student has been absent, as well as underscoring the importance of regular attendance.
Mentoring-based interventions are more resource-intensive. They aim to increase engagement for students who don’t feel as connected to school.
To match the correct type of support strategy with a student in need of support, it helps to take time to understand the root cause of chronic absenteeism for that student. It may be located within or outside of the school environment.
Decreasing Absenteeism Toolkit
Panorama's Decreasing Absenteeism Toolkit includes four evidence-based strategies with proven effectiveness when it comes to authentically engaging families and their students to improve attendance:
Check and Connect
Each guide provides information about the strategy, recommended use in terms of MTSS tiers and developmental stages, and detailed implementation instructions.
How To Use The Intervention Guides
Educators who download the toolkit can access and share these intervention guides as well as templates and a guide to using data to identify attendance trends and the students who need additional attendance support.
Some ideas for sharing these resources with your school and district teams:
- District Leaders: Incorporate these strategies into your district-wide intervention menu. Share these resources with your school teams and consider ways to consistently implement interventions districtwide.
- School Leaders: Bring these strategies to PLCs, staff meetings, or MTSS and Student Support team meetings to share with staff and support students at every tier.
- Classroom Teachers and Support Staff: Try these activities in class, small group, or individual settings to support the engagement and academic growth of every student.
Nudge Letters: An Example Evidence-Based Attendance Intervention
One evidence-based attendance intervention included in the Decreasing Absenteeism Toolkit is Nudge Letters.
Focus Area: Attendance
MTSS Tiers: Tier 2, Tier 3
Developmental Stage: Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
About This Strategy:
Nudge Letters is an intervention focused on communicating about a student's absenteeism with parents or guardians. Information about the child’s attendance is provided to family members through brief postcards, letters, text messages, phone calls, or email. Nudging is an inexpensive and effective means of reducing chronic absenteeism.
The goals of this intervention include:
- Engaging parents or guardians in their child's school attendance.
- Reducing student absenteeism by providing actionable insights and encouragement through letters.
- Confirm that current attendance data is accurate.
- Determine family members’ preferred means of contact.
(1) Identify Target Students
- Review attendance records to identify students who have missed more than the acceptable number of days according to your school's policy.
- Different states and districts have different thresholds for what constitutes "chronic absence" but most define it as missing 10% or greater of the total number of days enrolled during the school year for any reason.
- Compile a list of students that are struggling with attendance, along with their attendance records and parent/guardian contact information.
(2) Determine a Communication Cadence
- Decide when and how frequently parents will receive information about their student’s absences. Follow this policy consistently.
(3) Personalize the Nudge Letter
- Using this pre-designed Nudge Letter template as a starting point, create a customized letter for a specific student.
- Insert the student's specific attendance data in the designated areas of the template.
- Add any additional resources available to students and families at your school that might be supportive for attendance purposes (e.g., home visits, afterschool programming, etc.).
- Ensure that a brief message about the importance of regular school attendance is included. Provide one way that parents can contact the school in response to the message (for example, a phone number or an email address).
(4) Send Letters
- Nudge Letters can be sent home with a student, mailed to their family as a postcard, shared via email, or messaged via text.
- After the letters have been sent, mark a follow-up date on your calendar for two to three weeks later.
- On the follow-up date, review the attendance records of the students who received the Nudge Letters.
- If improvement is noted, consider sending a positive reinforcement note. If no improvement is noted, prepare for further intervention, such as a follow-up letter or phone call.
When students regularly come to school they can learn and thrive. Learn what's working to reduce chronic absenteeism.
- Recommended Resource: Boston Public Schools and the Utah Board of Education are leveraging MTSS to understand and address attendance barriers. Learn what works from them and Attendance Works when you watch the on-demand webinar: Decreasing Absenteeism and Its Effects With Meaningful Strategies.
- Pro Tip: Use Panorama Student Success student attendance tracking to identify students who are chronically absent, and to create attendance intervention plans. Watch the Demo on Demand: Achieving Your Attendance Goals with Panorama Student Success.
- Recommended Resource: Find the path to improvement that's right for your school or district. We created the Decreasing Absenteeism toolkit for district leaders looking for guidance and templates to support student attendance.