Teachers and Student Attendance

Tips for Dealing with Absent Students

How Teachers Should Deal with Attendance Issues
April 25, 2019 Eddie Renz
A portrait of small happy school girl sitting at the desk in classroom, looking at camera.

Attendance Issues with Students

Did you know, research says 1 in 10 students have an attendance issue. Research also shows that missing 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days in most school districts, negatively affects a student’s academic performance. You will see this fairly frequently throughout your teaching career. There is always at least one student that doesn’t attend school as often as they should. Given the variety of factors that play a role in school attendance problems, it is important to avoid placing the same assumptions onto all students. This is why absence is an important topic to be aware of… A student’s absence jeopardizes their success. Academic scores are directly correlated with school attendance. When thinking about this, it makes perfect sense. If a kid is missing school, they are not receiving the instruction. If a student isn’t receiving instruction, there are gaps being created that vastly impact the student and the classroom. Studies show that excessive absences are a precursor to school dropouts and the possibility of your school losing funding, which restricts resources for the school to do the job.

happy student working on a science project

Creating engagement with students will encourage them to come to school

Decreasing Student Absences

Decreasing absences is a priority for many schools. Your state and school district will have their own policy and practice in place for dealing with attendance issues. Talk with your attendance staff for clarification if you aren’t sure what your district’s plan is. I have always had a positive experience when asking for clarification.

As a classroom teacher, what can we do to help our students see the importance of school?

  • Make sure to be consistent taking role every day.
  • Identify and address factors contributing to the student being absent. Does your student haveunreliable transportation to school? Does your student have to stay home to take care of younger siblings when the parent is at work? Do the parents not value school? Students who live in communities with high levels of poverty are four times more likely to be chronically absent than others, often, for reasons beyond their control; such as unstable housing,
  • Unreliable transportation and a lack of access to health care.
  • Inform parents, guardians, and caregivers of the school district’s method of verification of absences due to illness. Sometimes parents aren’t clear as to how to keep their children from becoming truant (the action of staying away from school without good reason). Sometimes it is as simple as getting the appropriate documentation. This still poses a problem with missing instruction time, though. Address the problem of chronic absenteeism, even when the absenceshave been excused.
  • Use bilingual aides to contact parents, guardians, or caregivers with limited English-speaking ability and send out school attendance notification e-mails or letters in the languageappropriate to the family
  • Build rapport by creating a supportive, engaging, classroom that will encourage children to come to school. These can be small adjustments, such as creating goals with a student to have a reward for increasing their attendance.

Student Attendance Issues around the Holidays

Something I wish I would have been told is, that you will see an increase of absences from students around the holidays. Parents want to take their families on vacation or to visit family and sometimes feel that missing school is a good idea to maximize their time. This makes the situations worse for students who already miss too many days of school. What can you do about that?

You can send home a letter to the families around the holidays. Tell them how important it is to attend school around Thanksgiving and Christmas. As stated above, if you decide to go this route, make sure to send the letter home in the language appropriate to the families. Attendance Works has a couple fantastic sample letters to send home. You can find them at https:// www.attendanceworks.org/resources/messaging/holiday-messaging/. If you would rather send home a flier specific around the holidays you can check out this website. If you like these ideas, create something that you can send home to the specific families in your district. Utilize other educators’ input when creating something like a letter or flier. If you are having attendance issues, other teachers are as well. They might jump in with helpful input and value your advice when using one of these approaches.

Some helpful tips for parents when their child has excessive absences, as seen from www.attendanceworks.org. Keep these in mind when you are in contact with parents ,if they ask for advice or seem to be at a loss as to how they can correct the issue.

  • Set a regular bed time and morning routine.
  • Lay out clothes and pack backpacks the night before.
  • Don’t let your child stay home unless they are truly sick. Keep in mind, complaints of astomach ache or headache can be a sign of anxiety, and not a reason to stay home.
  • If your child seems anxious about going to school, talk to teachers, school counselors or otherparents for advice on how to make them feel comfortable and excited about learning.
  • Develop back-up plans for getting to school if something comes up. Call on a family member,a neighbor, or another parent.
  • Avoid medical appointments and extended trips when school is in session.

In secondary education, you can involve the student in their plan for better attendance. Most secondary students have a little more say in attending school. Talk to each individual student using mostly positive speech. For example, instead of saying “when you aren’t present in school, it makes you unsuccessful”. Instead, say…. “When you attend school, you are more successful”. You can find sample success plans at: https://www.attendanceworks.org/resources/student- attendance-success-plans/


Missing School Matters www.missingschoolmatters.org
Attendance Works www.attendanceworks.org

Key Research: 

Why Attendance Matters for Achievement and How Interventions Can Help
The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_837.pdf

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