Hedy Chang, Mary Sieu and Bryan Joffe engaged participants from across North America in visualizing the significant negative impact of student absence from school, regardless of reason (excused+unexcused+suspensions=total absences). In the research-based simulation, by the time three new Kindergarten students entered 1st grade, those with chronic absences were well behind their peers. In this simulation, as with the students we serve, if the pattern of chronic absence persists, there will be no way to close the achievement gap.
Given that challenge, participants discussed factors such as barriers, negative school consequences, lack of engagement, and misconceptions that contribute to chronic absenteeism. We learned some practical strategies to address this challenge that have been successfully put into action at ABC Unified School District in California.
Presenters shared the importance of approaching attendance from the lens of a Tiered System of Support, much like PBIS, to be shared by all staff, not just as an intervention for those with chronic absences.
Attendance Works has valuable free resources such as yearly planning calendars, suggested interventions and improvement structures that help increase effective implementation to help districts tackle this challenge. They also offer a free Teaching Attendance Curriculum to help the entire school system address and overcome chronic absence in grades K-12.