Ways to Decrease Student Absenteeism

Misty Hance
Misty Hance
Assistant School Principal; Ed.D. in School Leadership, Carson-Newman University, TN

When it comes to student learning, we all understand that students need to be present to learn. Teachers realize that missed instruction can cause a student to miss standards necessary for future skills, pushing them further behind in future lessons. Administrators are feeling additional strain, as assessment accountability becomes tied to student attendance in many states. This leaves school faculty searching for ways to decrease student absenteeism.

Attendance Works

One way to motivate students is a visual representation of those with perfect or near-perfect attendance. Students often strive to see their name on a classroom or hallway display. Parents also enjoy seeing their child’s name highlighted in a display, and may encourage attendance for this type of promotion.

Rewards for Attendance

In addition to placing icons with student’s name in a display, students may work toward rewards for attendance. This may include a free treat once a week, a name in a drawing once a quarter, or even a party twice a year for those with five or less absences. Consider creating an incentive program. Some teachers reward student attendance by dropping the lowest grade a student has earned, thereby increasing their average, or placing  an extra 100% in the grades for students missing fewer than three days a grading period.

While we can encourage attendance through rewards and visual motivators, attaching a punishment to attendance can be very damaging to the child. In many instances, it may not be the child’s fault they are not in attendance, and they may be unable to persuade mom or dad to make it a priority. By making sure that positive incentives are tied to attendance rather than punishments to absences, we can help motivate students to attend without hurting those who are not in control of their situation.

Parent Contact

In order to help students realize the importance of attendance, teachers or school staff can contact parents personally when students are absent. Sometimes a call just stating that you have realized a student is absent can help a parent understand the importance of getting their child to school. In addition, there are times when parents may ask advice or share information about the child’s personal needs that can be helpful for the teacher in making a connection once the student returns to school. Communication expresses that the child was missed, and that instructional time is important. It’s our job to communicate to families that attending school is one of the leading indicators of a student’s success.

Building Relationships

If you ask most administrators, they would say that the most important factor in decreasing student absenteeism is building positive relationships. When students feel valued, they are more likely to want to be at school. When parents understand that teachers want to help their child succeed, they’re more cooperative in getting their child to school.

As administrators, we can do many things to build relationships and encourage attendance. If we truly believe that attendance is a leading contributor of educational success, then we should make it a priority to decrease absenteeism.

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