New Federal Chronic Absence Numbers
A Note from the Executive Director

Attendance Works is off to a stunning start to the sixth annual Attendance Awareness Month Campaign, where we are calling on everyone to Team Up for Attendance. With new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released in April, we now know that 8 million students are missing so many days of school they are at-risk of struggling to read by the third grade or dropping out. Key to combatting chronic absence is access to quality data. Did you know that you can leverage attendance data to identify which students most need positive, engaging supports to address barriers to getting to school? Ask school or district officials about the availability of chronic absence data. Download data tools for crunching chronic absence numbers

Attendance Works’ latest report Seize the Data Opportunity in California: Using Chronic Absence to Improve Educational Outcomes, can be a model for other states because it demonstrates how publicly available chronic absence data can be used to inform decisions about allocating resources to tackle absenteeism in schools and counties. The interactive data map developed by the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis shows the schools and counties most affected. Watch for our Attendance Awareness Month Brief this September that will examine the new OCR chronic absence data.

Don’t miss the Attendance Awareness Month website to learn how you can create a culture of attendance in your school and community. The Count Us In! toolkit is loaded with strategies, resources and ideas. Watch for updated materials for the Superintendents Call to Action. Use the materials liberally! Have a wonderful summer.

Best wishes,

Hedy N. Chang
Executive Director, Attendance Works
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Next AAM Webinar
August 15: Team Up for Attendance: Community Matters, 11-12:30 pm (PST) / 2-3:30 pm (EST). Registration opening soon!
News Highlights
  • Incentives are often used by schools as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce chronic absence, yet not all incentive programs are created equal. Researchers Rekha Balu at MDRC and Stacy Ehrlich at NORC at the University of Chicago have developed a framework, with questions educators can consider, to help design incentive programs that work.

  • Todd Rogers and Avi Feller with the Harvard Kennedy School sent personalized letters home that corrected parents’ misbeliefs about their child’s absences. The letters, sent to families of students in kindergarten to 12th grade in schools in Philadelphia, reduced chronic absenteeism by 10 percent. This type of intervention that empowers parents can complement more intensive student-focused absenteeism interventions. Find the study:


Now that #ESSA requires #chronicabsence reporting, what do we do w/ the data? Our report Seize the Data Opportunity w/ @ChildrenNow @UCDavis Center for Regional Change shows what we can do: #SchoolEveryDay
ESSA: Writing the Rules
  • A new report from FutureEd and Attendance Works explains the power of quality data as a tool to target resources to the schools and students who need the most support. It also lays out key steps to strengthen attendance collection and data quality under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These start with setting consistent definitions for what constitutes a school day, an absence and even a student, then establishing strong collection and auditing systems.

  • Attendance Works, The Hamilton Project, Brookings Institution, FutureEd, and the Everyone Graduates Center analyze the new chronic absence data from the national Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in a blog post. Better data reporting, not a spike in absences, explains the jump in the number of students in 2015-16 who were chronically absent. We offer recommendations that states can take to ensure accurate, high-quality data. Find the blog.
ESSA Policy News
ESSA Blog Series for States

Attendance Works is delving into the policy issues that states will have to contend with to ensure that chronic absence as a measure of student success remains a useful, valid, and reliable indicator under ESSA. Why we count excused absences; using positive, problem-solving strategies, (not punitive ones); keeping students with disabilities in school; and how to use high quality attendance data are a few of the topics. We encourage you to read the series to help your states consider the implications of the decisions they will make as they decide what counts as a day of attendance and which students will be included in the state’s accountability rubric.

First Look at National OCR Data

A report from The Hamilton Project  looks at the national chronic absence data from the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for 2015-16 and shows how health issues negatively affect student attendance. Check out their video too. Look for our upcoming September brief that will break down the new OCR data.
Community News
  • The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading will recognize 29 communities with Pacesetter Honors for their work in 2017. Pacesetter Honors highlights communities that report making measurable progress on key indicators of early school success, including progress toward school attendance, school readiness and summer learning.

  • California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced this spring that 16 school attendance programs were recognized as Model School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) for exemplary practices to reduce chronic absenteeism and increase student attendance. Model SARBs are using absenteeism data with their partners to target where resources are needed most. Find out more.
Technical Assistance Available
Need assistance help starting a program to address chronic absence, or want to dig deeper to provide interventions to students who are missing too many days? In addition to free resources and strategies, Attendance Works offers fee-based consulting services tailored to individual state agencies, school districts and schools. Find out more.

New Tools: Teaching Attendance Online Curriculum
Attendance Works has developed an online, interactive series of courses so you and your colleagues can learn how to improve attendance in your school. Created with the financial support of the Long Foundation, the curriculum offers knowledge, guidance and resources for principals, teachers and school support staff to help you reduce chronic absences in grades K-12th. Why We Teach Attendance (Module 1) and Creating a Culture of Attendance (Module 2, with separate courses for primary and secondary grades) are now available. Register here.

For Principals: Attendance Team Guidance
Principals are uniquely positioned to ensure their school community adopts a comprehensive, tiered approach to improving attendance that fits with their overall goal of promoting academic achievement. Attendance Works is updating our training guide for principals interested in establishing a school-based student attendance team as a vehicle to reduce chronic absence for all students. Watch your inbox! 
To date over 3,000 people have registered for an Attendance Awareness Campaign 2018 webinar! This year’s series is emphasizing how communities work together to improve student attendance. Next Up!

  • Aug 15: Community Matters will focus on the role key partners –early education providers, school nurses and other health providers, and national volunteer organizations – can play in helping to reduce chronic absence. Registration opening soon!
  • Sept. 15: Data Matters will showcase our annual brief highlighting how we can use chronic absence data, including the latest national data released by the Office for Civil Rights, to unpack barriers to attendance and target available resources. 

Missed a webinar? Find the PowerPoint presentation, discussion guide and recording on our website for: Working Together Matters, and Leadership Matters.
Attendance Works will be speaking at a plenary and two workshops during IEL's annual National Family & Community Engagement Conference July 11-13. Learn more

Join us at two workshops and a concurrent Plenary during the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's GLR Week in Philadelphia July 23-27. The plenary on Thursday is called "Reducing Chronic Absence Requires a Trauma-Informed Response". Register here.
Attendance Works would like to express its deep appreciation to the foundations that are currently funding our work nationally and in communities across the country: The California Endowment, The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, First 5 San Francisco, Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, Hellman Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Open Society Institute – Baltimore, The Patterson Foundation, Skillman Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Stuart Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.