Chronic absenteeism from school is a staggering problem. We can't teach students who aren't there. This week on the newsletter, I shared resources about tackling chronic absenteeism and thought I'd put some out there for you since this is such a pervasive problem. Also, it seems that September is a key month. Let's talk about why now is the time to pay special attention to the students who are to missing school and to communicate with parents.
Getting at the Data Behind Chronic Absenteeism
How to Use Data-Driven Instruction went live on the podcast Tuesday. Victoria delved into the power of data-driven instruction to address this problem, focusing on using both ‘warm' and ‘cold' data to improve student outcomes and understand why students are absent. This discussion came on the heels of just reading OPINION: A surge of absentee students might require a radical rethink of schools which shared that 33% of US students have chronic absenteeism, but they found that half of the students who miss 2-4 days in September will miss more than a month of school.
We have seen in research from Todd Rogers Harvard University that parents underestimate how much their children miss. Given that many parents underestimate the harm absenteeism causes children, this is an area where we can all improve.
September is the Time to Tackle Chronic Absenteeism Proactively and with Kindness
Kindly communicating with parents about the impact of missing school could help. Furthermore, if they know a student will miss to get work ahead of time.
But we must also know that many students are going through things we cannot comprehend and may be missing due to transportation, challenges in their home life, loss of sleep, or even not having clean laundry or healthcare or having to care for a sick sibling. Not all absences can be predicted, but if we can at least help with those that can be helped, that is progress in the right direction.
In the meantime, when I have students absent, I work to make things accessible to the students who aren't there. I typically use Nearpod to create my slides, and so I create a homework assignment for Nearpod so they can participate. I kindly communicate to understand if they are able to do work or if there is something going on instead. I also respect and understand that I may not be privy to what is going on, and so I tread lightly but also in a way to help students know that I want to help them succeed in my class and that they matter.
I've written about Empty Chairs matter and my method for honoring the empty chair. (I just updated this post today.)
What can we do about Chronic Absenteeism?
- Consider assembling a team to discuss and work through the “warm data” relating to absenteeism. Call parents. Talk to kids. Find ways to help. Now is the time. Listen to Victoria’s comments in the show on this.
- Read the research: Reducing Student Absences at Scale by Targeting Parents’ Misbeliefs is a good start. Then, have conversations with your administrative team and teachers about how it applies to your students.
- Read and discuss the Opinion column in The Washington Post
What are you doing? Feel free to share in the comments or contact me if you have something you do that will help other educators reach, and encourage students to come to school. And remember, when we make our classes exciting, that can help too!
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