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Investing in the Culture of Showing Up: Addressing Attendance Habits in a Post-Pandemic World

Chronic absenteeism is a major problem for many schools and remains an issue in the post-pandemic period, according to two experts from the School Innovations and Achievement organization who presented on Thursday at an AASA conference roundtable titled “Investing in a Culture of Showing Up.”

After more than two years of remote learning, graduation rates have fallen as a result of poor attendance.

Attendance is the No. 1 predictor of dropout rates. So how do we shift culture and close the achievement gap?

Richardson Independent School District in Texas had many ideas of why students were absent, according to presenter Brenda Payne, who was assistant superintendent of the district at the time.

“It’s easy to blame the parents,” Payne said. “But what we found was a deep lack of consistency within the school district as it relates to attendance. Attendance codes were misunderstood, communication was sporadic and interventions and positive behavior rewards were inconsistent.”

That’s when Richardson Independent School District partnered with School Innovations and Achievement to shift the culture. They began by creating a process and then focused on consistency implementation  across all school campuses. They improved a tiered system of support that would be implemented consistently across the district. With a systemic approach to monitoring attendance, schools provided consistent interventions and supports to prevent chronic absenteeism.

“Just like with academics, early intervention is key,” said Payne, who is now the national education advisor for SI&A. “The sooner we support families who are struggling to get their students to school and provide them with the support they need, the better the outcomes for the child.”

A multitiered system of support needs to address declining enrollment, missing students, chronic absenteeism, the academic side effects of missing school, and positive messaging to families – all with the objective of increasing learning time for all students. SI&A has been the enterprise attendance management solution for over a decade producing results for millions of students.”

“At the end of the day, kids need to be in school to learn,” said Brenda Tapp, national training manager  at SI&A. “We need to know who is not in school and why so we can provide the appropriate supports and interventions to put them on a path to success.”

(Kara Droney is communications director of Butler Area School District in Butler, Pa. )

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