Improving Attendance for Districts & Schools
In this section, you’ll find resources to learn more about attendance, including recorded webinars, best practices and research. Find tools & resources to help you in your attendance improvement work. Order or download ready to use awareness materials, recordings & videos.
In this section, you can find webinars, best practices, and research.
- Watch Sunnyside High School’s Attendance System
- Watch Barnes Elementary (Kelso SD) Attendance System
- Find the Attendance Works Webinars on their website.
- Find the National Student Attendance, Engagement, and Success Center (NSAESC) webinars on their website.
Addressing attendance is most successful when using a multi-tiered approach. Here is a sample of effective strategies for each tier. Visit the MTSS webpage for more information about multi-tiered systems.
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
Visit the Attendance Works website for more ideas on how community partners can be engaged to support attendance.
Tier 1: All Students
- 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 the 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 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 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.
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.
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.
Home visits or parent conferences 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
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 CBT resources below under Tools for more resources on community truancy boards.
- Find the Attendance Works research summary on attendance.
- FutureEd and Attendance Works published a new report that includes practical strategies that have proven to improve attendance. You can find the Attendance Playbook: Smart Solutions for Reducing Chronic Absenteeism on their website.
Tools & Resources
In this section you can find tools for understanding your data, planning and assessment tools, information on attendance screeners, and a variety of resources for communicating about attendance.
District and School Attendance Tracking Tools
Attendance Works offers excel tools that will easily produce reports that display the data listed above by simply importing your student-level data.
Digging Deeper to Understand Contributing Factors
These tools can help you understand factors in your school or community that may be impacting groups of students.
- Understanding the Factors Contributing to Chronic Absence in Your School
- Scan of Environment & Attendance Tool (SEAT)
- Student Voice Survey
- Healthy Youth Survey
- Anonymous Student Survey-Dig deeper into why your students are absent
- Anonymous Box: Try putting a box in the front office for students to explain anonymously why they were absent.
- Geographic Mapping (BatchGeo). This is a free online tool that can help identify geographic trends in your students’ attendance.
Students track their own attendance
Strive for Five Attendance Tracker (Grandview). Consider creating something like this for your students and parents based on your school calendar. Help them track their attendance with ease!
Planning & Assessment Tools
- Attendance Awareness is not just for September. Use this planning tool from Federal Way to keep attendance at the forefront in your school or district throughout the year.
- Attendance System Improvement Guide:
- This guide is designed to help schools and districts:
- Understand and interpret attendance data
- Engage in a collaborative self-assessment of your school or district’s strengths and challenges regarding Regular Attendance
- Develop concrete plans to improve Regular Attendance in your school or district
- This guide is designed to help schools and districts:
- Attendance MTSS Tiered Inventory
- Attendance Works Assessment Tools
- Find information about the Washington Assessment of Risks and Needs of Students (WARNS) on the WSU website.
- Find information about the Florida Reasons for Chronic Absenteeism screener on the Florida Problem Solving/Response in Intervention (PS/RtI) Project's website.
- This Attendance Letter template provides parents with the information about attendance required by law in RCW 28A.225.005.
- Washougal school district created a script for their teachers to have supportive conversations with parents about students absences.
- Find Handouts for Parents (One-pagers) of all ages on the Attendance Works website.
- How to Talk to Parents about Attendance-Communication that Works (One-pager).
- Customizable Email to Teachers
- Use the Get Schooled Attendance Calculator with students or parents to demonstrate the impact of absences on test scores and chances of graduating.
"Increasing Student Attendance with a Human Approach" Selah Assistant Principal Lee Grams shares his view of a positive approach to attendance and a culture of care.
Community Truancy Board Tools
Community Truancy Board Training Modules are available. Please email Krissy Johnson to request them.
Sample Memorandum of Understanding for operation of Community Truancy Boards
Attendance Awareness Materials
In this section, you can find posters to order and download, videos and other social media messaging, and wake-up call/robocall recordings from the Sounders and Seahawks.
Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow
Cartoon Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow
See for Yourself
Postcards to Send Students Following an Absence
"We Missed You" - Kitty
"We missed you, a latte."
"We Missed You so much!"
The Seattle Sounders, Rave Foundation, The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Office of the Governor have teamed up to record two Public Service Announcements. Check them out:
- Cristian Roldan
- Nicolas Lodeiro (Spanish)
For more ideas on raising awareness, visit the Attendance Works Attendance Awareness Campaign.