Student Attendance Incentive Programs

Michael T. Coleman
Michael T. Coleman
Elementary School Principal; MA in K-12 Educational Leadership

Barriers to Attendance

Coming to school today can be a challenge for so many children and teenagers. It is so vitally important for teachers and administrators to know their students, their families, and as much about their home lives as possible. Guidance counselors can play such an important role in building relationships with their students so that they know what could be hindering the child’s attendance. Of course, there are times when missing school cannot be avoided; however, we all know that there are days when we just do not feel like going to school or work. These are the days when school attendance incentive programs can really affect whether or not a student comes to school that day.

Day 1 to Day 180

The importance of attendance needs to be at the forefront of all discussions from the first to the last day of school. Reminding and encouraging students why they should be present every day could make them want to attend and decrease student absenteeism. Teachers and principals should greet all the children in the morning and tell them how happy they are to see them at school. Additionally, telling them at the end of the day that another exciting day of school awaits them tomorrow will get the students thinking about the next day’s activities. Attend today and achieve tomorrow, and every day and every student counts. Students need to know that their presence makes a positive difference. This is especially important for students who frequently have behavior problems. They often feel like no teacher or administrator wants them there, which is an awful feeling. Reaching out to these at-risk students can improve their attendance and even their behavior. Everyone wants to feel like they are wanted.

School Attendance Incentive Programs

There is a variety of ways to add attendance incentives into the school year. These can be done in a celebratory way and scheduled into the school calendar to keep disruption to class time minimal. Planning is key to success. Furthermore, testing windows, school vacations, and teacher in-service days all have to be taken into account. Dress down days and bonus points on a test are easy, non-disrupting incentives for monthly perfect attendance. Children love it when they do not have to wear their uniforms and also when they get extra points on a test. Motivational calls and social media posts done by the principal of schools can also get parents in on helping with the child’s school attendance. Larger incentives can be having a field trip for those students who have perfect attendance during the school year. A field trip could be to the local trampoline park, bowling alley, or arcade. Flyers and reminders about the field trips should be visible throughout the school year. Finally, a school-wide competition could be awarding a homeroom with the best attendance percentage for the year with a pizza party. All of these incentives, planned in advance, will encourage students to get to school every day.

Community Attendance Incentive Programs

Community members can also play a great role in encouraging school attendance. School district officials can reach out to local restaurants to give coupons to children who have perfect attendance. Local sports teams can also get in on the action by providing attendance incentives for students. If children see the importance of school attendance everywhere they go, it is going to influence and convince them to make it to school every day.

Parental Role

Finally, school administrators and teachers need to reach out to the parents and guardians of students, especially the students at risk of having low attendance. Parents need to recognize the importance of school attendance and know that they have the support of the schools. Schools can have free uniforms for children, offer breakfast programs, and even try to get a washer and dryer in the schools in case lack of clean clothes is preventing parents from sending their children to school. Communication between the school and families is paramount to overcoming any barriers to school attendance. By showing the families that principals, teachers, and staff want their students to be at school no matter what, it is more likely that these at-risk students will show up from Day 1 to Day 180.

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