While there is no catch-all solution to the nationwide absenteeism crisis, there are steps that can help mitigate the attendance issues our country faces today. The first step is working to understand the four leading causes of chronic school absences—barriers, aversion, disengagement, and misconception. According to District Administration, states are responding to these causes in multiple ways, including deploying task forces to address root issues, and leveraging technology to keep students engaged.
One way to address absenteeism includes using a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) approach that can help districts put foundational strategies into place that focus on promoting positive conditions for learning.
MTSS frameworks employ three tiers:
The MTSS framework must be implemented with fidelity and at all levels—from the state level to the individual school community. This effort must remove barriers to attendance while constructing a new culture of daily school attendance. What does this involve?
Safe learning environments—physically and emotionally—are an ideal place to start. When students feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment, they enter the school doors in the morning–a critical first step.
The next step—just as important—is keeping them in the building. If students do not engage with their education, they walk out the door and do not return. While the specifics will vary by school, engaging and relevant learning must be part of the equation.
Once students are more engaged and willing to learn, the next step is allowing chronically absent students catch up on their missed studies so they can earn the necessary credits and, ultimately, graduate.
Chicago Public Schools, to improve its chronic absenteeism rates, created this detailed MTSS framework.
The question remains, “How do we get to that point?” None of these steps can occur unless school staff buy in. To that end, districts must make educator well-being a top priority. This effort should naturally resolve staff shortage issues and foster engagement and excitement among staff to put the student-aimed steps into place and create a positive learning environment.