Attendance - Best Practices & Research
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Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

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Best Practices and Research

Addressing attendance is most successful when using a multi-tiered approach. Here is a sample of effective strategies for each tier. Visit the OSPI’s MTSS webpage for more information about multi-tiered systems.

Attendance Multi-Tiered Inventory Worksheet
Knowing why students aren’t attending school helps determine which strategies will work best in your school. Find resources for understanding what contributes to absences in your school.

Tier 1: All Students

By starting with your tier 1 school-wide strategies, you can reduce the number of students that need more intensive services. Tier 1 strategies are often less resource intensive and are critical to establish in order for tier 2 and 3 strategies to be effective.

+ Positive and Engaging School Climate. Do your students & families feel safe, engaged, and supported at school? You can use existing data sources (like the Healthy Youth Survey or your own climate survey) or you could try the Scan of Environment for Attendance Tool that has you see your school through lens of your students and parents.

Learn how other schools are approaching creating a positive school climate to increase attendance.

Find resources on developing parent and family engagement.

+ Define and Teach Good Attendance. Does your school or district have a common definition of what good attendance is or have a threshold for Tier 1 attendance? If not, consider starting with this definition. Some schools use a catchy slogan like “Strive for Five” or “171 days”. Consider involving your staff, teachers, and families in the creation of this definition to create more engagement in this effort.

In the same way we teach academics, we can teach behavior, including attendance. Explicitly teaching students about attendance expectations contributes to greater success in this area.

+ Building Awareness of the Impact of All Absences. Many communities, school boards, and families are simply not aware of the negative impacts of absences on students’ education. To start building awareness and shifting the culture of attendance in your community, see our free resources, and those on Attendance Works. Join us for September’s National Attendance Awareness Month! See OSPI’s template letter for families.

+ Celebrating & Incentivizing Good Attendance. Taking the time and dedicating resources to celebrating good attendance can be a strong and fun motivator for students to improve or keep up their attendance. Tips on Effective Incentives and other resources on incentives.

+ Monitor Data Frequently. By monitoring data on a daily and weekly basis can help catch kids early before absences accumulate. Once you have your tiered thresholds defined (how many absences trigger a Tier 2 & 3 intervention), it is valuable to review the students who meet that threshold on a regular & frequent basis. This monitoring allows school teams to match the student with an appropriate intervention.

Tier 2: Some Students

+ Nudge Letters. Nudge letters are an evidence-based strategy that use social comparison or norms to “nudge” the behavior of students and families. Read the research and how Tacoma has used nudge letters in their district with great success. Contact your student information system administrator or service provider to learn more about attendance nudge letter options.


+ Check & Connect Check & Connect is an evidence-based mentoring intervention that builds a strong relationship between the mentor and the student, offers individualized support, partners with families, and engages with the student on attendance, behavior and grades. Read more about the program.

Contact Krissy Johnson at for training opportunities.

+ Peer Mentors Peer mentoring involves youth mentoring other youth, often an older student with a younger student, and can have significant positive benefits for both students. Read guidance on implementing peer mentoring programs.

+ Attendance Advisory Building on the concept that attendance is a behavior, an attendance advisory is a tier 2 group intervention that increases the skills needed to be present and on time. Find sample curriculum developed by Keithley Middle School in Franklin Pierce School District that teaches skills like sleep hygiene and time management.

+ Early Interventions through Family & Student Problem-Solving Home visits or parent conferences whose purpose is to work with the student and family to understand reasons for absences and devise solutions. Here are some examples of barriers and solutions that may work:
  • Transportation challenges: bus passes/vouchers or assistance establishing support plans
  • Trouble getting out of bed in the morning: alarm clocks or wake up calls
  • Lack of engagement: Connect students with extra-curricular activities or alternative learning settings, including Open Doors Re-engagement programs.
  • Lack of clean clothing: connect with community partners or companies for donations of a washer and dryer for the school.
  • Lack of access to shower: allow students to use shower facilities before school

Use the My Family’s Help Bank Worksheet to help families think through their support network.

Tier 3: Few Students

+ Community Truancy Boards The purpose of a community truancy board (CTB) is to identify the root causes of truant behavior and provide resources or interventions to youth and families in a collaborative and supportive manner. See the Truancy page for more supports and description of community truancy boards.

Best Practices for All Tiers

+ Engaging Community Partners Community members, organizations and businesses are critical partners in this work. This work is not on schools alone, and there are many willing helping hands.

Here are a few ways that community partners can support students to attend school:

  • Prizes for incentive programs
  • advertising on reader boards
  • posters in business windows
  • volunteers for tutoring or mentoring
  • participating on the community truancy board

For more ideas on how community partners can be engaged to support attendance.

+ Building a System for Catching Kids Early The following are system components necessary for success:
  • Monitor Data Frequently
  • Identify a building champion and team
  • Gain leadership commitment
  • Evaluate what’s working and what’s not
  • Support the adults in the school, not just the students and families

Find more resources on building and sustaining a multi-tiered system of supports.

Research Summary
Find the Attendance Works research summary on attendance.

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   Updated 1/31/2019

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