Automate Absenteeism Letters and Keep Kids Learning
Chronic absenteeism is always on a low-level simmer at the back of administrators’ minds for multiple reasons—chief of which is always student wellbeing.
Research tells us that missing school impacts students’ ability to thrive in the classroom. But with myriad reasons for students to miss school, how can administrators get students in seats?
The first step is raising awareness of the impact chronic absenteeism has on student learning. Here’s how to manage it without adding a lot of manual work.
SIS to the rescue
Automating administrative tasks requires a strong SIS solution built to manage the heavy lifting for you. Unfortunately, most don’t have a built-in solution for impressing the impact of absenteeism on families. Still, not everyone is aware of just how easy it is to miss too much school.
Luckily, your SIS may include the capability to not only customize automated messages with pertinent information about the student’s attendance record, but also the dismal facts associated with chronic absenteeism. The Ed-Fi alliance, an organization which defines school data standards to make interoperable systems communicate better, offers a few data points to illustrate the importance of K12 attendance.
- Over seven million students, or roughly 1/6, have missed 15 or more school days.
- About 10% of K-1st grade students are chronically absent, which is exacerbated by childhood illness and the motivation to keep others healthy (in some places, it is a huge faux pas to attend school while ill).
- While early childhood years set a strong foundation for learning and aren’t to be missed, chronic absenteeism in later grades makes a student seven times more likely to drop out of school.
Photo credit: Ed-Fi Alliance
Consider adding stats like these to automated absenteeism notifications. Your SIS will give you the capability not only to add these facts, but also the current tally of each student’s attendance.
When to send?
Chronic absenteeism sneaks up on students and families. In fact, as little as two days absent per month will result in a 10% absenteeism rate—defined as chronically absent. If absenteeism is getting out of hand early on in the school year, consider sending automated letters to everyone early on in the year. A similar proactive strategy could pay off at the end of semesters or even at the end of the school year looking toward a new start in the fall. While not every student will have a long list of absences and some may not have much choice, it’s an opportunity to spark a conversation about why school attendance matters.
Take a deeper dive into the behavioral psychology behind attendance letters in The Attendance Nudge.
An absence is a symptom, not the diagnosis
The next step to easing the absenteeism habit is determine the true obstacles to attendance at school. Sure, there are plenty of kids who simply don’t want to go to school, but for most, applying solutions rather than blame can help ease the absenteeism instead of fanning the flames.
The common reasons behind chronic absenteeism can stem from health concerns or a lack of access to transportation, clean attire, and safety.
Some of these struggles may be outside the district’s control, but keep in mind the goal of healthy kids attending school regularly. Some of the solutions families need may be met with school- and community-powered opportunities and programs. If students need laundry access but don’t have it, offer before and after school access to laundry resources (maybe a family and consumer education classroom special project). Districts are bringing food pantries directly to campus to keep families close to resources they need.
This all requires a lot of planning and care, it’s true. The goal of improving absenteeism for a school district has many paths to success, but none are quick nor easy.
But then again, it’s said nothing worth having and achieving ever is.
Follow-up resource: Pitch the idea
Here's a handy dandy one-page pitch to get the ball rolling on absenteeism letters.
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