We have long recognized that efforts to improve school attendance and extend learning into the summer are driven by the same imperative: Children from low-income families benefit from more time in engaging and rich learning activities.
Attendance Works, the National Summer Learning Association and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading recently presented a webinar about how these twin goals can build off each other to help more children learn to read well by the end of third grade.
Just as we need to ensure that these students get the benefit of every school day possible, we need to make sure they have more time to keep learning through the summer. To succeed, we must start by ensuring that parents are informed, engaged, and supported.
How good attendance influences summer learning:
Research backs up the common sense notion that summer learning programs are more effective when students actually show up to learn. The 2011 RAND study Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning, reports that “studies that examined the link between outcomes and attendance found that increased attendance improves outcomes.”
To ensure students and families take attendance seriously, summer programs can:
- Communicate with parents so that they know about summer learning loss. Ask them to bring their child every day possible for the entire session if possible and to schedule vacations around the program’s duration.
- Help them develop a plan for daily attendance.
- Keep track of attendance in a systematic way. Make a point of taking the roll every day so children know attendance counts.
- Nurture a culture of attendance by recognizing students – and the caring adults who help them show up every day or overcome a hurdle to improve their attendance. Send message about the value of attendance through songs, activities and contests.
- Create opportunities for students and families to get excited and engaged in learning so they recognize how showing up every day helps build new skills.
How summer learning can promote good attendance:
Building good attendance habits in summer programs can reinforce the importance of attendance and help students and parents start the school year right. Summer programs can:
- Talk to families about any challenges – such as health, transportation or housing – that keep children from getting to the summer program regularly. Suggest ideas or resources for overcoming these barriers before school starts.
- Talk to students and parents about the value of attendance and encourage good routines and habits they can carry into the school year.
- Help students get ready for the first day of school. Talk to children about what to expect in a new grade or, in some cases, a new school. Help them get excited about what they will learn.
- Help parents get ready for the first day of school. Make sure they know when school starts and suggest that they schedule time to visit a new school and secure immunizations. Help parents understand what their children will be learning, starting as early as kindergarten, so they understand the consequences of missing class.
Here’s a handout!