December 2015

A Note from the Director

We're finishing out an extraordinary year with ground-breaking advances occurring across the nation. Chronic absence is now a part of the federal law governing education and the focus of a cross-sector initiative involving the White House and four federal agencies. 
States are increasingly monitoring the metric, with Oregon becoming the latest to track and share data publicly. Attendance Works is now surveying state officials and policy advocates to assess attendance policies. If you would like to participate, please email Senior Policy Associate Sue Fothergill, at
More local communities than ever are adopting our recommended strategies for engaging families, breaking down attendance barriers and bringing more students to school every day. The number of users on our website has doubled in a single year. We expect the release of chronic absence rates for all states, districts and schools by the Office of Civil Rights in the Spring will motivate even greater action.
We know this momentum would not be possible without your partnership! We also would like to express a special thank you to our colleagues and friends who included Attendance Works in their charitable contributions. If you haven't had a chance to donate, you can use the button to the right. Your support is more critical than ever to help us keep up with the mounting demand.  
Happy Holidays to All! 

Hedy Chang

  Policy Spotlight
States will be required to report chronic absenteeism rates to the federal government, and school districts will be allowed to spend federal dollars on training to reduce absenteeism, under a sweeping education bill signed into law by President Obama last week.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or No Child Left Behind, represents the first time that federal education law specifically mentions this measure of attendance. Chronic absence differs from truancy in that it tracks both excused and unexcused absences.
Its inclusion reflects the increasing awareness in Washington and across the country that chronic absence is a key indicator for assessing school and student success.
Read More Here

Oregon Shares Chronic Absence Data

Oregon became the latest state to publicly release chronic absence rates, with the state Department of Education providing a full breakdown of absences by school and district in October.
While advocates and journalists have already documented the state's problems with absenteeism, October's release represents the first in what will be an annual report from the state government.  The report found one in six students - or about 94,000 children - missed 10 percent or more of the school year. The data also show chronic absence rates by race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, and students learning English or receiving services for disabilities.
Read more here
  Research Spotlight


Chronic Absence Can Impact Entire Class

Research has shown again and again that students who are chronically absent lag behind on test scores and other measures. But what happens to their classmates when there is too much chronic absenteeism in the classroom?
A new study by University of California Santa Barbara professor Michael Gottfried shows a clear correlation between high rates of chronic absence in the classroom and weaker academic performance for all students.
In fact, students in classes with no chronically absent students had test scores that were 10% higher on average than those in classrooms where half the students were chronic absentees. The spillover effects are especially pronounced for children from low-income families, girls and students with behavioral issues.
Gottfried suggests that teachers might be slowing down instruction to make sure that chronically absent students catch up. Also, he theorizes that students missing that much school can become behavioral problems and disrupt class.


Home Visits Contribute to Better Attendance

A study released this fall by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that teachers visiting families at home and other parent engagement strategies can have a positive impact on school attendance.
Washington, D.C., elementary school students whose families receive a home visit had 24 percent fewer absences - or about three fewer days - than similar students who did not receive a home visit. The students with home visits were also more likely to read at or above grade level.
The students are part of the Family Engagement Partnership between the Flamboyan Foundation and 27 D.C. public and charter schools, a partnership that includes academic meetings with families and activities for learning at home. The program builds on the work of the Sacramento-based Parent Teacher Home Visit Project and on the Education Department's Parent Engagement Framework .
  Practice Spotlight


Keeping Attendance Strong All Winter Long

Absenteeism often spikes in the winter months, as holiday travel, bad weather and illness conspire to keep students home from school. Attendance Works has developed a  winter weather toolkit for schools and communities. Some tips include:
  1. Celebrate individual attendance. In cold and flu season, it can be harder for a whole class to have good and improved attendance.
  2. Connect improving attendance to seasonal events. Make it part of your New Year's resolutions or Valentine's Day celebration. The 100th day of school lands sometime in late January or February. Celebrate the students who have missed fewer than 5 days.
  3. Work with public agencies. If, for example, you're expecting snow, talk to your city's public works department about prioritizing sidewalks and roads near schools. In rural areas, coordinate with snowplow teams.
  4. Tap your school's parents and volunteer network. Organize a snow-shoveling brigade or a four-wheel drive caravan to pick up stranded students. Collect rain gear or warm coats to help students weather nasty storms. Share these tips for families.

Best Practices for Texting Families

Given that 90 percent of families now use cellphones, educators across the country are experimenting with texting as a way to reach parents. Some schools are texting to deliver messages about school attendance. We don't yet have research to show the efficacy of that approach. But in a blog post in Education Week, Harvard researchers Todd Rogers and Kim Bohling offered some tips for educators who text. Here are five take aways:
  1. Be specific. Text about a student's absences versus the overall importance of attendance; if possible, suggest an action.
  2. Be personal. Use names and the right personal pronouns.
  3. Be brief. If your texts go longer than 160 characters they may break into two messages.
  4. Be strategic. Don't bombard families with too many texts. Reserve them for the information you need to share.
  5. Be positive. Be sure to let families know when something is going right. That makes it a little easier when you've got bad news to deliver. 
Read the full blog post here.

Cities that are using community­-wide health and education strategies, including efforts to reduce absenteeism, will be highlighted in the 2016 All-America City Awards. Cities can still apply until March 9 to compete for the award, given annually by the National Civic League (NCL). In 2016, Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign will partner with NCL to recognize communities that have school attendance and healthy school projects enabling all children to succeed.

Now in its 67th year, the All America City award recognizes cities for work or plans that demonstrate innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement and cross-sector collaboration.

About Attendance Works

Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success. We aim to ensure that every school in every state not only tracks chronic absence data for its individual students but also partners with families and community agencies to help those children. 


Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Pinterest and like our Facebook page!

Attendance Works deeply appreciates the generosity of colleagues and friends who have included Attendance Works in their charitable contributions. If you haven't had a chance, you can donate now by clicking: 

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Whatever the size of your gift, it will provide us with much needed support to advance our work.

If you took part in Attendance 
Awareness Month, be sure to let us know what you did, what you like and what you'd like to see next year. Click here to fill out a short survey.

In The News

Want To Make A School Better? Get Kids To Show Up, NPR, November 13, 2015


Stopping Absenteeism at the Age of 5, The New York Times, October 16, 2015


Wyoming Schools Get Poor Report Card for Native American Absenteeism, NPR, December 3, 2015

Check & Connect, a mentoring intervention proven to improve attendance, is hosting a two-day, comprehensive training in La Quinta, Calif. on Jan. 7 and 8.

Registration deadline is this Sunday, Dec. 20. Learn more here .
Contact Us

For more information contact: