Strategic Data Use

COVID-19 safety dividers
Empty desks. Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

Some schools benefited greatly during the pandemic from well-organized data systems and protocols. In other words, there were already norms in place to collect data and meet regularly to use that data to make decisions to address attendance issues across the student body. In other schools the pandemic highlighted a lack of protocols around reviewing attendance data or using data to plan interventions to support their students. Looking at trends and conducting root cause analyses ensures that districts go beyond addressing the symptoms and begin looking at the actual causes of absenteeism. Having a dedicated team trained in using data can only support better attendance in schools and ensures students get the supports they need. 

Guiding Questions

  • What are the tools your district or school has to collect and analyze attendance data?
  • What are the protocols your district or school uses to analyze data and who is expected to do that work?
Examples, Tools and Strategies
Strategies Aligned Resources

Implement early warning indicators

Significant research has shown that three specific indicators—attendance, behavior and course pass rates in English Language Arts and math—can predict students who are at risk of dropping out before completing high school. By tracking those three indicators closely and intervening quickly, schools can make a significant difference in attendance and in student outcomes more broadly. WestEd’s guide for creating early warning systems along with a substantial set of tools.

Want to launch quickly? Regional Education Laboratory (REL) created this easy seven step process + Add to Action Plan to implement early warning indicators in a school or across a district.

Use data to establish priority groups

Schools and districts have found significant success in homing in on priority groups when working on attendance initiatives. Who are the students and communities who were hardest hit in the last year? Who will need the most outreach and support as the new year kicks off? By focusing on specific groups that most need support, attendance teams can increase their impact.

Attendance Works has a COVID-19 attendance guide + Add to Action Plan that schools and districts may find helpful in figuring out what attendance challenges students face and how schools might help address those challenges.

Create district and school attendance trackers 

While all schools and districts have tools already in place to track student attendance, sometimes those tools are not as effective at tracking chronic absence and measuring the impact of attendance initiatives. Using a tracker allows schools to analyze attendance patterns across a grade, school or district.

Download this free attendance tracking tool + Add to Action Plan from Attendance Works. Note that there is one that’s suited for schools and another for district use.

Put together a team that understands and uses data to improve outcomes  

Selecting and training a team to use attendance data strategically can greatly improve outcomes. 

AttendanceWorks partnered with TeachingReady to create the Teaching Attendance Curriculum, + Add to Action Plan a research-based, educational program designed to equip school leaders, teachers, and school support staff with an understanding of the issue, as well as the guidance and resources they need to reduce chronic absences in grades K-12.  

Module 3 focuses on Using Data for Intervention and Support and can help train staff to use data strategically.