Seven Ways Schools Can Reduce Chronic Absenteeism and Increase Student Attendance

Key takeaways 

  • Chronic absenteeism has increased because school has become seen as optional in many people’s minds. 
  • Student attendance is tied to achievement in school and in adulthood. 
  • Schools can improve attendance by experimenting with these strategies: 
    • Elevate and enhance communication with parents via video. 
    • Create attendance pledges or contracts with students and families. 
    • Ongoing outreach to students and families with chronic absenteeism, especially when students transition from one school to another. 
    • Make attendance a fun, competitive group activity with rewards and creative community activities. 
    • Develop a welcoming and supportive school environment where students feel safe and supported. 
    • Offer virtual options for absent students using video recordings of in-class lectures so absent students don’t fall behind. 
    • Focus on relationships inside and outside the school with students, families and community organizations to help students feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves. 
    • Teachers and schools can use Padcaster in multiple, creative ways to deepen connections and ensure absent students keep pace. 

Why Has Chronic Absenteeism in Schools Gotten So Bad? 

The reasons why students miss school can vary: illness, anxiety, transportation hurdles, caregiving, travel, etc. The reasons students miss school are as diverse as the students themselves.  

As Katie Rosanbalm, a psychologist and associate research professor with the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, told The New York Times, “Our relationship with school became optional” in the aftermath of the pandemic. As a society, we lost what was once deeply ingrained and mandatory—the importance of education. 

Here are a few stats that show why chronic absenteeism is so risky for students’ present and future success: 


What Can Schools Do to Improve Student Attendance? 

Every school and every student is unique, which means that the strategies and programs schools implement to fight chronic absenteeism will need to be tailored to each student’s or school’s specific situation. Here are seven ideas to start fighting chronic absenteeism and increasing student attendance in your school. 


Attendance Solution #1: Elevate Your Communication with Parents 

Parents can be your greatest partners in fighting student absenteeism. Educate parents on the importance of attendance and how it’s connected to overall achievement. Stories are often the best way to communicate important information and are a great way to inspire and educate parents.  

Video is a powerful storytelling tool. The Padcaster Studio or Starter Kit make it easy and affordable to turn your smartphone or tablet into a full production studio. With Padcaster, teachers and principals can better communicate with parents about why school attendance is critical to their child’s learning and well-being. 

Here are some ideas for stories to share with parents: 

  • Students who overcame attendance issues and improved their achievement. 
  • A family who got the resources they needed with the school’s help. 
  • A teacher’s story of how difficult it is to help chronically absent students catch up in class. 
  • A principal’s story about why they believe that education is essential to future success. 

You can share the videos you make with parents via email, social media and/or your school website. 

 Here are some other best practices: 

  • Keep parents informed of their children’s absences, especially if they have become chronic (missing 10% or more of school days), through text, email and/or postcard. 
  • Schedule meetings with parents when their child’s attendance is becoming an issue. You could do this at school, over the phone or meet at the family’s house. 


Attendance Solution #2: Connect Early and Often with Absent Students and Their Families 

Examine your attendance records for students who have a history of missing school. Middle schools and high schools may want to collaborate with previous schools to help identify students with attendance issues whether those absences are excused, unexcused or because of disciplinary actions.  

Connect with these families to uncover the hurdles they face: 

  • Is there a transportation issue? If so, what options are available to help? 
  • Is there a caregiving issue where an older sibling needs to stay home to care for another family member? What local resources could support the family? 
  • Is the family wanting to travel outside of peak seasons? Educate them on the importance of in-class attendance and how make-up assignments are a poor substitute for in-class work. 
  • Is the family struggling financially? Can you help connect them with local community organizations or social services to help? 
  • Is the student feeling anxiety or overwhelmed by their new school? Can you connect them with an older student mentor to help them adjust? Can your school counselor help provide resources for managing stress and change? 
  • Is the student being bullied? Address the causes and help them feel safe again. 


Attendance Solution #3: Make Attendance a Fun, Competitive Group Activity 

Most kids love games and friendly competition. Turn attendance into a school-wide community project.  

Offer rewards like pizza parties, certificates or an attendance hall of fame to the students and classes with the highest attendance rates. You could also experiment with themed spirit days where students can get creative and have fun with their attire. 

Have a combination of big celebrations and small ones throughout the year to keep students’ momentum going.  


Attendance Solution #4: Develop a Welcoming and Supportive School Environment 

When students feel safe, welcome and supported at school, they may be more likely to attend and to ask for help when they need it. If your class or school is struggling to create a positive learning environment, it’s time to make a change.  

You can use video-based school announcements using the Padcaster Studio to create a more welcoming environment at your school. Here’s how: 

  • Earmark some time each day or week to talk about safety, inclusion and belonging at your school. 
  • Establish cultural norms. Talk about how it’s important that students be respectful and inclusive of one another. 
  • Explain where to keep an eye and ear out for bullying: classrooms, bathrooms, cafeterias, playgrounds and/or locker rooms. 
  • Share ideas for how to practice skills like empathy, active listening and emotional regulation. 
  • Provide resources for students if they experience or witness bullying. 


Attendance Solution #5: Offer Virtual Options for Absent Students 

Too often, absent students get a sliver of the educational experience with make-up worksheets or readings. Video can help bring the in-class experience home. Here’s how: 

  • The teacher sets up a Padcaster Studio to record their class that day. 
  • Capture the teacher’s lesson on video and the dialogue with other students. This way, the absent students get additional context. 
  • The teacher then emails or texts the recording to the absent student or their parents. 
  • The absent student can watch the lesson at their own pace, pausing, rewinding or fast-forwarding as needed. 
  • The absent student can then come back to the teacher one on one for any questions, much like a flipped classroom. 


Attendance Solution #6: Focus on Relationships 

Schools are filled with all types of relationships, inside the school and out. Here are the kinds of relationships you want to foster in the classroom, your school and community: 

  • Student-to-student relationships help create friendships and camaraderie 
  • Student/teacher relationships drive trust and understanding 
  • Teacher/parent relationships enhance student support 
  • School/community relationships help connect students and families with additional resources they might need, whether it’s food, clothing or social services. 

If you’re not sure how to start building last relationships, check out the work of Esther Perel who says, “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” 


Attendance Solution #7: Create Attendance Pledges or Contracts 

Educators can no longer assume students or parents understand that attendance and achievement are connected. Create an attendance pledge or contract for students and parents to adhere to.  

You could weave this into the registration process, the first day of school or have it be part of back-to-school night. You could have an online pledge or form for parents and students to sign. 

Use Padcaster in Your Strategies to Boost Student Attendance 

There’s no one method to solve chronic absenteeism. You’ll have to experiment to see what works best for your classroom and school. What’s certain is that you can use Padcaster in multiple ways for multiple attendance strategies. Shop the Studio or Starter Kit today or get a quote so you can fight chronic absenteeism tomorrow. 

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