Structures and Policies

Close-up of socially distanced high school students
Close-up of socially distanced high school students. Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages.

The pandemic caused radical policy shifts in many districts. It also resulted in revamped funding priorities and government relief packages. Now schools and districts have an opportunity to rethink structures and policies related to attendance. Education leaders shared a hope for more social workers, more time in the day to support young people, and better systems for tracking and understanding absences.

Guiding Questions

  • How do your current structures build in time and space for relationships, connection and data analysis?
  • How can you use what you’ve learned from the pandemic to revise policies so that they better reflect students’ current realities?
Strategies Aligned Resources

Reflect and strengthen tiered interventions 

While most students will need general supports to encourage strong attendance, some students will need focused, small group interventions, and a few will need intensive, one-on-one interventions. Attendance Works outlines those three tiers and gives examples of interventions.

Download this template + Add to Action Plan from Attendance Works to name the tiered attendance supports you use in your system. By naming those supports, you can reflect on where your systems are strong and where you might want to strengthen a tier.

Build time for relationships and connections 

Block off time for explicit relationship building with students and families in the fall and create a calendar of activities that are geared to help students reconnect with each other, with teachers and with their own goals for coming to school.

Check out Step 3 of Attendance Works’ comprehensive guide + Add to Action Plan around attendance, including this tool + Add to Action Plan for re-engaging students and families.

Invest in attendance 

Consider using COVID-19 relief funding to expand the team of people who lead attendance work. While all of the school community should see attendance as a vital part of their job, it is helpful to have experts who lead the work and who can spend time on more complex attendance issues.

For districts or schools thinking about how to use COVID-19 funding to address attendance, FutureED provides this this guidance + Add to Action Plan  around using federal funds to invest in attendance. 

Reduce chronic student absenteeism 

In light of the challenges resulting from the pandemic, many students and families face even greater challenges to education and may need a higher level of support. As protests over systemic racism demonstrate, our public schools have not adequately addressed the systemic barriers that limit access and equitable opportunities. It’s critical that approaches be adapted to what we know is working. With that in mind, educators must think through key questions in selecting, prioritizing, and implementing attendance strategies using an equity lens and considering current pandemic-related realities.

FutureEd and Attendance Works have expanded their Attendance Playbook + Add to Action Plan to reflect attendance challenges unique to schools and districts during and after the pandemic. It includes more than two dozen effective and readily scalable approaches to reducing chronic student absenteeism in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition, their guide to using the Attendance Playbook + Add to Action Plan, is a companion to the updated playbook and helps educators focus supports to groups of students who need additional help to overcome barriers to attendance and participation. It offers general ideas and tools, as well as charts and checklists, to determine what interventions to try with students and their families.

Use staff success mentors to support chronically absent students  

The National Success Mentors Initiative aims to connect more than one million students with dedicated Success Mentors using an evidence-based and data-driven mentor model and student support system to tackle chronic absenteeism. The program vision is that each chronically absent student is matched with a supporting, caring adult to help them navigate their school experience and become college and career ready.

The Success Mentor Implementation Guide + Add to Action Plan provides tips on how to implement a Success Mentor model at your school. It was created by the Department of Education for districts, schools, team captains and school partners.