- Districts nationwide are tackling absenteeism with a variety of innovative tactics. From going door-to-door to talk with students and their families about the importance of going to school, to sending text messages and automated calls, many administrators are getting personal through a technique called "nudging" in particular, District Administration reports.
- West Virginia school leaders, for example, are putting up billboards and yard signs urging students to go to class, while administrators in Little Rock, Arkansas, formed a committee to improve attendance through social media, automated calls and parent night discussions.
- Dubuque Community School District in Iowa, meanwhile, is rewarding good attendance rather than punishing those who don't show up. Districts are also digging deeper to determine the root cause of students' absenteeism issues.
Getting off to a good start in September is important. A study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium found Baltimore City students who missed fewer than two days in September continued to average less than two absent days per month.
Many states are now tracking absenteeism in their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and studies also show a link between absenteeism and student success — even at very young ages. A 2008 report by the National Center for Children in Poverty found 10% of kindergarten and 1st grade students missed 10% of the school year. The chronically absent students had weaker reading skills, especially the Latino children.
Another study connected poor attendance in early years with lower levels of reading proficiency in 3rd grade. Students with good attendance records were more likely to score proficient on California’s 3rd-grade English language arts test than those with poor attendance.
Absenteeism is often also a symptom of other problems, such as chronic health issues, lack of safety, feeling left out and lack of academic engagement. Digging deeper into the reasons for absenteeism often reveals unexpected root causes, and sometimes those problems are easy to fix. For example, schools in low-income neighborhoods have installed laundry facilities for families of students who miss class because they have nothing to wear.