Over the last decade, educators, parents, community leaders and other key players have come to recognize the importance of shining light on what was once a hidden issue: chronic absenteeism, which is defined by a student who misses 10 percent or more of school days in an academic year due to an absence for any reason—excused or unexcused.
As you consider which actions to take, it is important to understand the bigger picture. Our friends at Attendance Works have identified an organizational framework for improving attendance. The Tiered System of Supports for Improving Attendance provides a general understanding for how to target your efforts based on the severity of a student’s absence patterns. The higher the frequency of absence, the greater the level of supports needed.
To help Ohioans address this issue, the Stay in the Game! Network prioritizes the following four action steps local teams can take (preferably as part of a partnership that includes educators, parents, community partners and others and in the context of a broader school or district continuous improvement plan):
These action steps can span the three tiers identified in the Tiered System of Supports for Improving Attendance. That said, most of the time, the action steps live in Tiers 1 and 2. It depends on how targeted the action step is. For example, a Tier 1 play could be a general campaign to increase awareness of the impact of school absence. Using data to target messages to specific students can elevate the play to Tier 2. Coordinating across community partners and agencies to offer students, families, parents and caregivers specific supports is a Tier 3 play.
It is important to note these action steps are not necessarily listed in sequential order. On one hand, your local team might want to take immediate action to broadly build awareness of the importance of school attendance. No harm can come from increasing public awareness of the effects of chronic absenteeism. On the other hand, your local team might find it essential to first crunch your numbers to inform your awareness-building efforts. Or, your team might choose to do both at the same time. Regardless of the approach, you will need to crunch your numbers before you can identify students and target supports and check to see if your actions work.