Project Lead for Attendance Innovation Campaign – Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing more than 10 percent of school days in a year, represents one of the largest barriers to school success – one that a variety of school divisions and provinces across Canada are beginning to address in a targeted manner. It represents a significant issue and affects students as young as kindergarten and first grade, whose poor attendance hurts academic performance and sets a pattern for years to come. While we understand that parents can be powerful allies in preventing absenteeism, the power of family-school relationships are often overlooked.
In Alberta, it is estimated that over 151,000 students are impacted by school absenteeism and placed at significant risk of negative future outcomes, such as economic disadvantage, incarceration, and mental health challenges. According to an analysis of 2014-2015 attendance trends in Rocky View Schools, 22 percent of students could be described as chronically absent. To begin addressing this problem, Rocky View Schools launched a pilot initiative with matched financial support offered by an anonymous donor. The appropriately named, Attendance Innovation Campaign, had three main aims and intended to 1) educate communities as to the importance of attendance, 2) empower schools to utilize data to guide their practice, and 3) eliminate barriers to regular attendance in whatever manner they may appear. Beyond these three aims, the Campaign recognized the importance of family-school relationships and embraced growing research that showed how simple, low-cost strategies can reduce student absences and pave the way for academic success. In our four pilot schools, we asked teachers to do three things throughout the year
- Make a positive in-person or phone connection, at the beginning of September, with the parents of students in their homeroom, or as otherwise indicated by their school administrators.
- Reach out and perform a positive phone call, letter home, or email with parents of students in their assigned group on a monthly basis from October to June. This connection should describe how the student is doing or something positive they have observed.
- Make a positive phone connection, at the end of each month, with the parents of students in their assigned groups who were identified by school staff as missing a significant portion of school within a given month (e.g., 3-4 days). Please connect with the student as well if it is appropriate.
Through adopting the strategies listed above, the Attendance Innovation Campaign reduced chronic absenteeism within the identified schools from 10 percent to 1 percent in under one year of direct service. Rocky View Schools has committed to allowing elements of the Campaign to extend divisionally for the 2017-2018 school year.
For more information about the Attendance Innovation Campaign, please visit:
Project Lead for Attendance Innovation Campaign – Recent North American studies report that approximately 10-15 percent of students demonstrate problematic absenteeism and, if these prevalence rates are accurate for Alberta, over 100,000 students would be placed at significant risk for academic underachievement, high school drop-out, incarceration, and mental health difficulties. Further, students who experience chronic stressors, such as socioeconomic disadvantage, are placed at an even greater risk for school absenteeism, and represent a specific population who benefits greatly from early intervention. The potential size of this issue within Alberta highlights the need for efficient and effective attendance data tracking, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that occur at the individual school level and can be compiled for divisional and provincial review.
Across Canada, school authorities differ in their practices surrounding the collection, monitoring, and evaluation of attendance and tardiness data. These differences are unique to provinces and school divisions because each party places different emphasis on the importance of school attendance and have different technological capacities. Despite these differences, however, attendance and tardiness should not be complicated behaviour to gather accurately because they are some of the clearest outcomes we can examine in schools – presence, absence, or tardy. Unfortunately, great variability exists between school boards, schools, and classrooms in how this data is collected and the accuracy of entered information. Attempts to track and evaluate student attendance and tardiness at a provincial, division, or school level often fail before they have even started because of this issue.
Tracking school attendance should not be rocket science and the Attendance Innovation Campaign has created a draft framework that school divisions can employ to standardize their processes and increase the accuracy and meaningfulness of collected data. We are requesting input on this draft document and hope everyone can join the attendance conversation. To obtain a copy of this framework, please click here.
For more information about the Attendance Innovation Campaign and to obtain access to useful educational resources, please click here.
Project Leader, Attendance Innovation Campaign – We often talk about the importance of regular school attendance and how it impacts the development of academic, language, social, and work related skills in children. The research clearly shows that students who miss two days each month are placed at significant risk for current and future challenges at school. Despite knowing the impact that school absences can have, we often do not address a root cause for why many students are not in school – vacations.
Vacations offer unique learning and relationship building opportunities for children, and very few educators or school administrators would ever downplay their value. Issues arise, however, when vacations are extended into, or implemented during, the school year. Unlike many vacations, schools offer a structured setting for academic development, language-rich environment, opportunities to develop social competencies, and experiences that nurture work-related skills such as persistence, resiliency, problem-solving, and the ability to work with others to accomplish goals.
There are approximately 180 instructional days in one school year and teachers have a large amount of curriculum content to cover within that timeframe. Given teachers share their knowledge and passion for learning on a daily basis, students who miss school because of vacations are placed at a relative deficit for lost instructional time and valuable learning opportunities. Many parents have the perception that their child can easily catch up on missed work and it can be the case for some. Unfortunately, the research demonstrates that many students who miss this instructional time will not catch up.
If parents intend to take their children away on vacation during the school year, we ask that they consider the impact it can have on their child’s learning and take steps to minimize it. By limiting the amount of time that is taken away from instruction, parents set their children up for success in the future. For more information on how parents can help improve the attendance of their children, please visit:
Project Lead, Attendance Innovation Campaign – Attending school on a regular basis is important for the positive development of academic, language, social, and work-related skills in children. Schools offer a structured setting for academic development, language rich environment, opportunities to develop social competencies, and experiences that nurture skills such as persistence, resiliency, problem-solving, and the ability to work with others to accomplish goals.
It is well-known that students who attend school on a regular basis, missing five or fewer days over the year, score higher on standardized and school-level assessments of achievement. These students often graduate from high school and are much more likely to become employed following the completion of school. However, despite the positive incentives for maintaining regular school attendance, thousands of students across Alberta demonstrate problematic levels of school absenteeism and tardiness.
There are approximately 180 instructional days in one school year and teachers have a large amount of curriculum content to cover within that timeframe. Given teachers share their knowledge and passion for learning on a daily basis, students who miss or are late for school are placed at a relative deficit for lost instructional time and valuable learning opportunities. According to the research, students who miss 10 percent of instructional days are placed at significant risk for academic and social challenges. This means, regardless of the reason for absence, students who miss 18 days over the year will likely be off-track in their learning. Thankfully, there are many ways in which absences can be combatted by families, schools and communities. If you need help getting your children to school, are an educator or administrator who needs help working with students who miss school, or a community leader who values the role of school attendance in fostering successful citizens, please check out the following links for useful tips.
Resources for: Parents of Preschool Students ; Parents of Elementary Students ; Parents of Middle or High School Students ; Teachers ; Administrators ; City Leaders