A Standard Early Warning System for PreK through Third Grade.
Since chronic absenteeism begins in the early years of schooling, an elementary-grades early warning system could help schools mobilize family, school, district, and community supports and interventions in the earliest years. The American Institutes for Research1 has created an early warning rubric specifically for North Carolina that utilizes the North Carolina Risk Report and Diploma Assessment Report available in PowerSchool. This tool enables schools and districts to identify and support students at risk of dropping out of high school. Work on an early-grades warning system could be built from this tool.
Expanding Access to School Health and Mental Health Professionals
Research has shown that the presence of school-based health providers reduces hospitalization rates, decreases the number of absences for children with asthma1, and can increase attendance.2 School counselors improve a child’s academic, social-emotional, and career skills and abilities. Schools that employ counselors have better school climates and report lower rates of aggressive child behavior and classroom disturbances.3 This approach is endorsed by the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading.4
Developing Family, School, Community Partnerships
Key program elements in building partnerships to reduce absences include home visits and regular parent contact, attendance incentives, messaging the importance of regular attendance to parents,1 and referring chronically absent students to school counselors.2 These low- to no-cost interventions can improve school-parent relationships and encourage more regular attendance. They may also improve parent-child relationships.3
Implementing Research-Based Messaging with Parents
In Class Today is an example of a program of communication with parents of at-risk students shown to be effective in reducing chronic absenteeism. The intervention reduced student absences comparably across all grade levels, including absences among participating students’ siblings.1 Similar materials and tools are available from national initiatives including Attendance Works, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and Every Student, Every Day.
Establishing a School Climate Improvement Process
Guided by the National Center on School Climate’s approach (excerpted below), a framework could include:
- A shared vision and a plan for promoting, enhancing, and sustaining a positive school climate
- Policies that specifically promote a sustainable climate of social, emotional, ethical, civic and intellectual skills, knowledge, dispositions and engagement, supported by a comprehensive system to address barriers to learning and teaching and reengage disconnected students
- Prioritized practices that support holistic development of students, enhance engagement in teaching and learning, address barriers and develop a sustainable infrastructure
- A welcoming school environment where all members feel safe and are supported
- Social and civic justice demonstrated through practices, activities and norms1
Providing Wraparound Supports to Meet Family and Community Need
Individual schools have seen improvements in regular school attendance by using a “community school” model to reduce the impacts of living with low-income for the families in their schools. Schools have built themselves into community hubs, providing essential services or supports, like food pantries, laundry services, tax return prep, or adult ESL classes, to bring parents into the school building more often and improve the parent-school relationship. As a result, many of these schools have seen upticks in school attendance.1 These efforts require schools or districts to be intentional about understanding community service gaps and parent and child needs.
While wraparound community supports are not an evidence-based strategy to improve attendance, these small but meaningful adjustments and investments individual schools have made help to better serve parents and make the school a useful resource for them.2
Response to Intervention (RTI)
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
PBIS is a framework for organizing evidence-based behavioral interventions to improve academic and behavior outcomes for all students by taking a positive approach to discipline and behavior. Like Response to Intervention, PBIS uses universal screening, continuous progress monitoring, data-based decision-making, implementation fidelity, and evidence-based interventions.1
Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS)
The Responsive Classroom Approach (RC)
The Responsive Classroom is an approach to teaching that “integrates the social, emotional, and academic needs of children.”1 It is designed with best practices to teaching and learning and promotes a joyful and challenging classroom. This approach provides professional development and has been shown to improve the social-emotional learning climate in classrooms, student attachment to and engagement with school, and increases in math and reading achievement scores.2
Support Teacher and Administrator Development
Address teacher implicit bias through pre-service training and ongoing professional development. Train teachers in cultural competencies and provide ongoing professional development for teachers and administrators on consistent, clear, and culturally appropriate discipline practices.1 Train school administrators and teachers to monitor and track attendance data with continuous quality improvement testing cycles (i.e. Plan, Do, Study, Act). Building school-level capacity to understand and use data to identify and target resources is critical.2