Attendance Awareness Month doesn’t arrive until September, but we’re launching preparations today with the release of a revised Count Us In! toolkit and a new website exclusively for materials and information. Last year, we had more than 1,500 people sign up for our regular updates and more than 250 schools and communities post activities on our Attendance Action Map. We’re hoping to expand on that success and bring more communities into our movement.
Once again, we’ve got more than 40 national partners working together this year. Some, such as the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, consider reducing chronic absence a central tenet of their mission to improve third-grade reading rates among low-income children. Others, like Points of Light, are building attendance into their new Corps18 program, which will provide VISTA Corps members to schools and community organizations working to reduce absenteeism.
This year, we’re asking more of schools and communities. We want you not only to spread the message that attendance matters, but also to take concrete tests to reduce chronic absence.
What constitutes a concrete step? Here are a few ideas, but we’d like to hear others.
1. Calculating chronic absence data: Until schools and districts know the trend lines on chronic absence, they don’t know exactly who is affected or how to help them. Starting May 1, schools and communities can pin on the map to show that they are crunching their numbers. Click here for data tools.
2. Creating attendance teams: Schools can pull together teams within the school and/or include key government or community agencies to monitor chronically absent students and develop interventions. Read more about attendance teams here.
3. Developing a mentoring program: Many chronically absent students improve their attendance when they’re assigned to a mentor who pays attention to their absences and keeps them on track academically. Click here some resources for mentoring students.
4. Addressing barriers to attendance: Sometimes students face real barriers, such as poor health, unreliable transportation or unstable housing that make it hard to get to school. Community partners can help develop programs to overcome these challenges. Click here for some of the common barriers.