Best Practices for Improving Attendance

ESSER Attendance and Reengagement

OSPI is supporting attendance & reengagement through the ESSER Attendance & Reengagement Project. Find out more by reading the Attendance and Reengagement Project Explainer.

Re-Envisioning Truancy Project 

OSPI is exploring what equitable truancy policies and practices need to be to engage and support youth to access their education. Find out more by reading the OSPI Re-Envisioning Truancy Project Explainer

Contact Information

Krissy Johnson

Assistant Director of Attendance & Engagement

On this page, you'll find best practices to help you in your attendance improvement work! Addressing attendance is most successful when using a multi-tiered approach. This integrated system connects all of the academic and non-academic interventions, supports, and services available in schools and communities to support instruction and eliminate barriers to learning and teaching. Visit the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) webpage for more information.

Where should we start with Attendance?

Self-assess your attendance system and create an action plan.

What types of data do we need?
  • Tier 1 Attendance Data - Universal Patterns for Prevention (examples: Monday - Friday, Periods 1-6, holiday dips). Find more details here
  • Tier 2 Attendance Data - by barrier (examples: transportation, experiencing homelessness or foster care system, poor grading practices)
  • Tier 3 Attendance Data - Top 5% of students who are missing or severely chronically absent. 
Real World Examples
All Tiers

Engaging Community Partners

Community members, organizations, and businesses are critical partners in this work. This work is not on schools alone; there are many willing helping hands. Here are a few ways that community partners can support students in attending school:

  • prizes for incentive programs
  • advertising on reader boards
  • posters in business windows
  • volunteers for tutoring or mentoring
  • participating on the community engagement board

Visit the Attendance Works website for more ideas on how community partners can be engaged to support attendance.

Tier I: All Students

Positive & Engaging School Climate

Define & Teach Good Attendance

  • In the same way we teach academics we can teach behavior, including attendance. Explicitly teaching students about attendance expectations contributes to greater success in this area.
  • Does your school or district have a common definition of what good attendance is or have a threshold for Tier 1 attendance? If not, consider starting with this definition. Some schools use catchy slogans like "Strive for Five" or "171 days." Consider involving your staff, teachers, and families in the creation of this definition to create more engagement in this effort.

Building Awareness of the Impact of All Absences

  • Many communities, school boards, and families are simply not aware of the negative impacts of absences on students' education. To start building awareness and shifting the culture of attendance in your community, see our free resources and those on Attendance Works.

Celebrating & Incentivizing Good Attendance

  • Taking the time and dedicating resources to celebrating good attendance can be a strong and fun motivator for students to improve or keep up their attendance. Tips on Effective Incentives and other resources on incentives.

Monitor Data Frequently

  • Monitoring data daily and weekly can help catch kids early before absences accumulate. Once you have your tiered thresholds defined (how many absences trigger a Tier 2 & 3 intervention), it is valuable to review the students who meet that threshold on a regular & frequent basis. This monitoring allows school teams to match the student with appropriate intervention.

Engage and Reengage Students with School Connectedness

Research shows that young people who feel connected to their school are more likely to have better academic achievement, including higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and stay in school longer; they are also less likely to engage in many risk behaviors, including early sexual initiation, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and violence and gang involvement. Fostering school connectedness is a high-leverage, school-wide activity that will increase your student's attendance, engagement, and reengagement as we enter into the 2023 school year.

Tier II: Some Students

Nudge Letters

  • Nudge letters are an evidence-based strategy that use social comparison or norms to "nudge" the behavior of students and families. Contact your student information system administrator or service provider to learn more about attendance nudge letter options.

Check & Connect

  • Check & Connect is an evidence-based mentoring intervention that builds a strong relationship between the mentor and the student, offers individualized support, partners with families, and engages with the student on attendance, behavior, and grades. Read more about the Check & Connect program.

Peer Mentors

  • Peer mentoring involves youth mentoring other youth, often an older student with a younger student, and can have significant positive benefits for both students. Read guidance on implementing peer mentoring programs.

Attendance Advisory

  • Building on the concept that attendance is a behavior, an attendance advisory is a Tier 2 group intervention that increases the skills needed to be present and on time. Find sample curriculum developed by Keithley Middle School in Franklin Pierce School District that teaches skills like sleep hygiene and time management.

Early Interventions through Family & Student Problem Solving

  • Home visits or parent conferences work with the student and family to understand reasons for absences and devise solutions. Here are some examples of barriers and solutions that may work:

    • Transportation challenges: bus passes/vouchers or assistance establishing support plans
    • Trouble getting out of bed in the morning: alarm clocks or wake-up calls
    • Lack of engagement: Connect students with extra-curricular activities or alternative learning settings, including Open Doors Re-engagement programs.
    • Lack of clean clothing: connect with community partners or companies for donations of a washer and dryer for the school.
    • Lack of access to shower: allow students to use shower facilities before school
    • Use the My Family's Help Bank Worksheet to help families think through their support network.
Tier III: Few Students

A Community Engagement Board (CEB) is a collaboration between schools, community partners, juvenile court, and the student and family. A CEB is intended to provide a supportive space where the student and family can openly discuss and identify the reasons behind student absences. It is also a place where the team can identify resources and supports to improve the student’s re-engagement in school and connection within their community.

Note: The Washington State Legislature changed the name of Community Truancy Boards (CTBs) to Community Engagement Boards (CEBs) effective September 2021