The pandemic has caused a significant rise in chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10% or more school days. Although illness was a common reason for these absences, a considerable portion can be attributed to students not participating in virtual or in-person classes due to difficulties in engaging with the learning process and a tendency to disengage. Recent federal data reveals that student absences have continued to escalate in the 2021-2022 school year, surpassing even the levels observed during the pandemic.
In today’s context, it is crucial for students to attend school. The setbacks caused by the pandemic cannot be reversed, and students cannot progress effectively unless they actively participate in school. By absorbing instruction, forging connections, and engaging in new and thrilling experiences, students can truly move forward in a positive and meaningful manner. Let’s explore strategies to ensure students’ consistent attendance and encourage them to return day after dat.
1. Create a positive climate
The environment you establish in your school and classroom has a significant impact on students. Throughout the day, from the moment they enter in the morning until they leave in the evening, it’s crucial for students to feel valued. Building strong relationships is directly tied to attendance. Set an example by fostering positive interactions and cultivating an atmosphere where students feel appreciated and embraced. Often, you will be the primary positive role model in a child’s life. Therefore, treat your students with dignity and respect.
2. Set the example
Your presence is important, so please make sure to attend. However, it is crucial for your own well-being and the well-being of your students that you refrain from coming to school when you’re unwell. By rarely being absent, you convey a strong message that being present with your students holds great significance to you.
3. Minimize obstacles
There are various factors that can prevent students from attending school. Chronic illness, family circumstances, responsibilities, and transportation issues are among these obstacles. Additionally, students may avoid school due to bullying, social difficulties, boredom, inadequate accommodations for disabilities, and a lack of connection with teachers and peers. These are just a few examples of the reasons why students miss school. By fostering a positive environment and building strong relationships with students, you can increase the likelihood of addressing and overcoming some of these barriers that lead to student absences.
Build strong relationships with parents/guardians and maintain open lines of communication. Keep them informed about classroom activities and their children’s learning progress, going beyond the usual routine of sharing instructions. Provide families with insights into the classroom experience by creating a newsletter involving your students. When discussing challenging matters with parents regarding a student, strive to balance it with positive aspects or suggest constructive approaches to tackle the issue collaboratively.
5. Encourage involvement
Students who engage in extracurricular activities such as sports, band, chorus, or other clubs tend to develop a strong sense of belonging to their school and are less prone to absenteeism. To foster similar positive connections, it is important to provide opportunities for all students to get involved outside of regular class time. For instance, organizing after-school activities like a book club, gardening group, or robotics club can help create social circles that promote a positive and supportive environment.
6. Create a mentor program
Mentors have a proven track record in reducing chronic absenteeism. Research indicates that young adults who have a mentor are 55% less likely to miss a day of school compared to their peers. However, the positive impacts of mentoring extend far beyond attendance alone. Evaluations of mentoring programs have consistently shown that mentoring enhances social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes.
It is crucial to seize this moment and take positive action to ensure that these students are able to attend school, as their future hinges on it.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.