A Note from the Executive Director
As 2021 comes to a close, I am deeply grateful for the many individuals who have worked overtime to keep our students safe, healthy, connected and learning during this tumultuous year. With the Attendance Works team, I thank:

  • Students and families who are persevering through hard times and encouraging each other to stay engaged.
  • Teachers and administrators who are still going above and beyond to create a welcoming place where students can learn.
  • The support staff and community volunteers who provide the extra hands and attention our children need.
  • The policy makers and advocates who have fought to secure additional resources to address the challenges created by the pandemic. 
  • The individual donors, funders and corporate sponsors who support our free give-away strategy and the improvements made to our resources.

We were delighted to see that so many recognized September as Attendance Awareness Month and used it to launch yearlong campaigns. Over 318,000 visitors used our website this year to find proven strategies and tools, and over 38,424 people now subscribe to our newsletters.

Although some students were able to thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic, new data from McKinsey & Company shows that chronic absence, as reported by parents, is 2.7 times pre-pandemic levels. This absenteeism could lead to 1.7 million to 3.3 million more 8th-12th graders dropping out. The report also shows that the preexisting achievement gap between Black and white students has increased by about one third. 

As I discussed during this NPR Weekend Edition interview, we have to use our data to invest in expanding the number of people who can be supporters in this work, including community providers that might partner with schools. Ensuring an equal opportunity to learn will require schools and communities to double down on building strong, caring relationships with chronically absent students and their families so they stay engaged and connected despite the difficulties of quarantine, disrupted routines, traumatic experiences and often ongoing economic challenges.  

More than ever before, it will require all of us working together to scale proven solutions and to innovate and adapt to Covid-19. To support you, we have worked nonstop to offer updated messaging and resources. See below for materials for Superintendents, Teachers, Community Partners, Policy Makers and States.

We hope you are able to take time to relax and recharge over the holidays! There is much work to do in the coming year.

With gratitude,

Hedy N. Chang
Founder and Executive Director
Your participation makes a difference! Together we are creating practices that recognize today’s complex education challenges and make better futures possible for our children and their families. Donate to Attendance Works here!
News Highlights
Resource Spotlight
Texting Toolkit
A new toolkit from researchers at American Institutes for Research and the Department of Education is designed for districts that are considering using text messaging to improve attendance. Download the toolkit, How to Text Message Parents to Reduce Chronic Absence Using an Evidence-Based Approach.
Create capacity to take a comprehensive, prevention-oriented team approach to addressing high levels of chronic absence that builds on what your schools are already doing. Maribel Childress, Superintendent with the Gravette School District in Arkansas, for example, used a multi-pronged approach to address attendance during the pandemic. Read more in our blog post. Use our district self-assessment and planning tools to ensure your district is taking a systemic approach.

Chronic absence data can help schools identify kids who are missing too many days. Learn more in the Reviewing Data section in Pathways to Engagement. We’ve updated for Covid-19 sample letters that can be used to welcome new students and families, or to alert parents and caregivers when a student is chronically absent. Leverage our school team self-assessment tool to determine how you can strengthen your operations.

We updated for Covid-19 our popular Handouts for Families take a look and download them. They’re also translated into five languages. Plan to include attendance in the parent-teacher conference. Download our Student Success Plans to help you engage with families about their child’s absences, or discuss absences directly with older students.

Policy Makers and States
Chronic absence policies are paramount to reducing the adverse and disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on students and families. They can be instrumental to creating a positive, long-term recovery. Consult our newest recommendations for local, state and federal policies that promote taking daily attendance and using multiple measures, including chronic absence.
Community Partners
It takes many hands to improve attendance. With educators at all levels exhausted by today’s demands, partners across the community can be called upon to help support tutoring, mentoring, and after school and in-school programs to improve engagement and participation. Visit our Community and Agency Partners page to learn more
Policy Spotlight
The Learning Policy Institute examines the key elements of the new California Community Schools Partnership Program. The report offers evidence-based principles for high-quality implementation and discusses technical assistance. Find the policy brief, California Community Schools Partnership Program: A Transformational Opportunity for Whole Child Education.
State News
Student voice is a vital part of planning when reimagining schools during Covid-19. Connecticut State Department of Education’s innovative Voice4Change program empowers high school students to propose and vote on how more than $1.5 million in federal relief funds will be invested to reimagine Connecticut’s schools. Learn more!

Effectively establishing digital connectivity was not easy for many in 2020-21. School leaders in Connecticut answered questions about the challenges and successes related to remote learning. Find the report, Home Internet Connectivity: Barriers and Opportunities to Closing the Digital Divide for Connecticut Students.
New Research
Researchers at Wayne State University surveyed Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) families at the end of the 2020-21 school year and linked responses to attendance records. Among the findings: Students attended school at lower rates throughout the 2020-21 school year, but seasonal patterns were similar to pre-pandemic years. Find the report, Detroit Families' Experiences with COVID-19 and School Attendance: Survey Evidence from DPSCD.

Little is known about how sworn law enforcement officer presence affects student outcomes. A new study from Annenberg Institute at Brown University finds that sworn law enforcement officer presence in public schools results in increased chronic absenteeism, particularly for students with disabilities, and intensifies the use of suspensions. Find The Thin Blue Line in Schools: New Evidence on School-Based Policing Across the U.S.
Webinar Spotlight
In our September 29 webinar, Todd Rogers with Harvard University shared best practices for communicating with today’s very busy families so they can support their child’s attendance and learning. He also shared his Writing for Busy People Checklist. Find the recording, the checklist and more resources and links shared in the webinar chat, on this page.

Missed an AAC 2021 webinar? Find the webinar recording, presentation slides, and a discussion guide for each on our website.
The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) is proud to host the 2022 National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference (CSxFE), June 1-3, 2022 in Los Angeles! This year's theme, Uniting for Every Child's Opportunity, is both a reminder and a call to action. Join over 3,000 participants for learning and networking opportunities designed to increase your knowledge of Community Schools and Family Engagement. Register today!
Professional Development
Registration is open for our popular 3-part training. Choose a series focused on elementary or secondary grades. Participate with the attendance team! Learn more.

Attendance Works also offers fee-based consulting services tailored to individual state agencies, school districts and schools, in addition to free resources and strategies. Find out more.
Attendance Works would like to express its deep appreciation to the foundations that are currently funding our work nationally and in communities across the country: Abell Foundation, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, GRoW @ Annenberg, Heising-Simons Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Open Society Institute–Baltimore, The Patterson Foundation, Rogers Family Foundation, United Way of Greater Kansas City.