5 Tips for Improving Student—and Teacher—Attendance

Regular attendance is a group effort, with students, families, faculty, and administrators all playing a role.

Regular attendance is a group effort, with students, families, faculty, and administrators all playing a role.
September 2018, Volume 42, Issue 1

Regular attendance is a group effort, with students, families, faculty, and administrators all playing a role. Use these 5 tips to create a strategy to engage each group as you work to improve school attendance.

Tip No. 1: Communicate with families.

Attendance is a whole-family affair, and it starts with communication. Research shows that many parents don’t see a correlation between their child’s attendance prior to high school and the effect this behavior has on his or her future. Educating families is not only an efficient way to relay the importance of regular attendance, but it’s also a productive way to engage them.

Tip No. 2: Target messages to students.

Did you know there’s an attendance calculator kids can use to find out how absenteeism will affect their chances of graduating on time? Seeing is believing, they say, so a tool like this could have a profound impact on your students’ future attendance. But students should want to come to school—and not just because a calculator tells them to. GetSchooled.com also has what it calls “celebrity wake-up calls” from famous actors, athletes, and musicians to get children excited to attend school.


Tip No. 3: Pay attention to data.

Data can help you uncover root causes of absenteeism, target resources for improvement, and set goals. A lot of it is already available to you without having to collect it yourself; your school district should have a data report it can give you that shows how many of your students and what percentage of them are chronically absent. Then gather more information to identify what you can do for common cases. Is asthma and the lack of health or dental care are keeping students from attending school? If so, enlist community partners to offer onsite health services. Or ask parents about transportation challenges.

Tip No. 4: Make it a team effort.

Don’t depend completely on district data. You’re in the school every day and you see what’s happening in real time. Establish a team devoted exclusively to look at how to improve the quality of your data. The team should be made up of staff familiar with attendance data, parent engagement activities, student behavior, and family supports, as well as those with the ability to help engage other teachers.

Tip No. 5: Don’t forget about teacher attendance.

Studies have shown that teachers average about 13 absences each a year. When teachers are out of the classroom, student learning is minimized. So how should principals approach this with their faculty? Focus on three things: rewarding teachers for positive attendance behaviors, creating team attendance competitions among groups of teachers (who doesn’t love a little competition?), and collecting—and using—data to figure out what exactly is the root cause of poor teacher attendance in your school.

For more tips and strategies on improving attendance in your school, check out NAESP’s 2018 Back-to-School Portal.

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