Count Us In! Toolkit 2017

Count Us In! Working Together To Show That Every School Day Matters

Attendance is essential to school success, but too often students, parents and schools do not realize how quickly absences — excused and unexcused — can add up to academic trouble. Chronic absence — missing 10 percent of the school year, or just 2-3 days every month—can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing courses and ninth-graders dropping out of high school. Low-income students, who most depend on school for opportunities to learn, are especially harmed when they miss too much instruction.

Chronic absence is an alarming, largely overlooked problem that is preventing too many children from having an opportunity to learn and succeed. National data collected for the 2013-14 school year found 6.8 million students, or 14 percent of all students, were chronically absent. This is not just a problem in middle and high school: It starts in kindergarten and preschool. It is a problem in districts of every size, urban, suburban and rural. The report, Preventing Missed Opportunity, shows that nine out of 10 U.S. school districts experience some level of chronic absenteeism, but half of the nation’s chronically absent students are concentrated in just 4 percent of its districts. Low-income children, English language learners, and children with disabilities miss the most school. In every state, missing too much school correlates with weaker standardized test scores.Read this research summary for more details.

Stemming this crisis is essential to our country’s economic and educational future. Growing recognition of its importance led to its inclusion in the recently passed Every Student Every Day Act, which reauthorizes federal funding for public schools. Chronic absence is a required reporting metric under Title I and Title II funds can be used for professional development about chronic absence.

The good news is this is a problem we can fix when schools and communities work with students and families, starting in the early grades to identify barriers to getting to school, help students overcome these barriers and cultivate a culture of attendance that encourages showing up every day even when it isn’t easy. This starts by helping everyone in the community recognize they have a stake and a role. It requires careful attention to data and strategic, locally tailored interventions to address attendance challenges.

We’re using the fifth-annual Attendance Awareness Month to encourage schools and communities to remember that engagement matters for attendance. Under this year’s theme, Engagement = Attendance, we are emphasizing the important role everyone can play in creating a welcoming and engaging school environment that motivates students and families to come to school every day. It’s essential to determine who, when and where students are most likely to miss too much school. Why students are absent is also important: What challenges or misconceptions are keeping students from getting to class? We also want to learn what works from schools and communities that are turning attendance around so that all students have an equal opportunity to learn.

Since 2013, Attendance Awareness Month has engaged hundreds of schools and communities. Over 60 national organizations are now working together to ensure everyone can participate: from a single school to a citywide coalition to a national organization. Sign up here to receive regular updates and tips for improving attendance. Browse the links below and click on what interests you:

Attendance: A Community Imperative