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.
+ 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.
+ 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 email@example.com for training opportunities.
+ 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.
Find the Attendance Works research summary on attendance.