Educator Resources

Chronic absenteeism has emerged as a growing concern on local, statewide, and national levels, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is defined as whenever a student misses 15 or more school days throughout the year for any reason including excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. In Santa Cruz County the rate of chronic absenteeism more than doubled from 10.4% in the 2018-19 school year to 27% in 2021-22. The trend was almost identical statewide, with chronic absenteeism increasing from 12.1% to 30% over the same period.

As educators we know that when students miss school, there are far-reaching implications. Students miss out on valuable classroom interactions, vital lessons, and extracurricular activities and in turn experience learning gaps, decreased academic achievement, and social isolation. Chronic absenteeism can translate into students having difficulty learning to read by the third-grade, achieving academically in middle school, and graduating from high school. In fact, research shows that attendance is a predictor of success in so many ways – academically, socially, and with positive mental and behavioral health.

We know that addressing chronic absenteeism will require a collaborative effort between schools, teachers, parents, and the broader community. The resources found here include ready-made materials that administrators, teachers, and family engagement staff can use to deepen your learning, assess your own attendance practices, guide your attendance strategies, plan for year-long attendance activities, and effectively engage families with meaningful messaging.

Administrator Resources

General Resources

Resources for District Teams

Resources for School Teams 

Teacher Resources

From creating a welcoming classroom environment, to developing engaging lesson plans, to building strong relationships with students and families, teachers can have a huge impact on improving chronic absenteeism. 

Research shows that families consider their child’s teacher to be the most trusted messenger for talking about attendance, but that the topic doesn’t always come up. Research also shows that early attendance concerns are a major indicator of chronic absenteeism making early identification and outreach key. Families often either don’t track or underestimate their child’s absences in school. However when families are informed early, in language that expresses concern (not compliance) and when it identifies what their child is not learning by not attending and how that will impact them in the future, attendance often improves. Here you will find a step-by-step guide to addressing attendance at parent teacher conferences as well as tools to help parents track attendance and plan for challenges. You will also find a toolkit with ready-to-use resources, and a tool to understand individual student’s root causes of absenteeism. 

Attendance Resources for Parent Teacher Conferences

Family Engagement Resources

Families are essential partners in reducing chronic absenteeism because they are ultimately responsible for getting their children to school. However, research shows that families are often unaware of how many days their child has missed throughout the year, and often consider absenteeism a bigger problem in high school than in elementary school. Many families also experience significant challenges including housing insecurity, poor transportation, lack of access to healthcare, etc., which can result in poor attendance.  In fact, children living in poverty are two to three times more likely to be chronically absent—and face the most harm because their community often lacks the resources to make up for the lost learning in school. Students from communities of color as well as those with disabilities are also disproportionately affected.

But the good news is that families want their children to do well in school. And when effective messaging is used which connects absences with the hopes and dreams that families have for their children, we often see improvement in attendance. 

Here you will find a family engagement toolkit, strategies for effective messaging, flyers and letters for families, as well as activities, videos and discussion guides for family engagement meetings. Strengthening the partnership between families and schools is crucial in addressing chronic absenteeism. When schools and families work together, we can create a supportive environment that encourages regular attendance and helps students reach their full potential. 

Letters to Families

Flyers For Families

Parent Video & Discussion Guide 

These videos can be shared at family engagement/leadership meetings. A slide deck and discussion guide is included. 

Activities for Families

These activities were designed to spark awareness, conversation and action with families who are ideally already involved in parent leadership or family engagement activities.