- The Pittsburg Unified School District in California is gradually combating chronic absenteeism through a menu of incentives and interventions designed to improve its school attendance rates, EdSource reports.
- One method includes incentives, such as class parties, uniform-free dress days and ceremonies and certificates designed to reward high or perfect attendance, a new accountability measure for California schools.
- The school district is also using attendance data to identify children at risk for chronic absenteeism and to provide family support for issues that may interfere with school attendance.
Because school attendance is a big indicator of student success, many states are choosing to use this measure as part of their ESSA plans. According to Attendance Works, students who are chronically absent are less likely to be reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade and more likely to drop out of high school.
Schools are addressing the problem in a number of ways, but the intervention strategy employed by the Pittsburg district is worth watching. Students miss school for many different reasons, most often due to health issues or family situations. Helping students and families connect with resources to address these obstacles can reduce the problem of chronic absences and may yield surprising results. For instance, when a principal of a St. Louis school discovered that students were failing to attend because of a lack of clean clothes, he partnered with Whirlpool to bring washers and dryers to schools.
Schools are also using incentives to reward perfect attendance. Though this method has been shown to improve attendance in some cases, it can backfire. If students attend classes when they are contagious in order to reap the rewards, for instance, they can infect other students and staff members. To address this issue, some experts suggest setting the bar lower and rewarding excellent attendance, rather than perfect attendance or rewarding improved attendance records.