Data to Action: Improving School Attendance


Understanding School Attendance. Numerous studies show that when students are not present more than 90% of their enrolled school days, their success is diminished through lower achievement test scores, poorer grades, poorer study skills, increased levels of illiteracy, reduced connectedness to school. Poor attendance is the number one precursor of truancy and delinquent behavior, and of ultimately dropping out of school. Lack of literacy and education impacts a person's entire future in terms of social functioning, job skills, level of employment, and level of income. For elementary school attendance, experts set the level for optimal attendance higher, at 95%, as younger students are learning the fundamental skills on which all future learning is based. Equally important, school is the one common area for contact with our children and youth, allowing assessment and intervention for disabilities, developmental issues, mental health issues, and multiple social and health and well-being issues, such as illness, neglect, poverty, and abuse.

The goal of the Supporting Student Success project is to increase the health and well-being of our students by improving rates of school attendance and to address or remove barriers to regular attendance by engaging community stakeholders, service providers, and policy leaders in a three-part process. First, we will examine the story behind the data for school attendance, and assess what will be needed to turn the curve and improve outcomes. Second, we will investigate outcome-driven evidence-based practices and programs for improving school attendance rates, both locally and nationally. We anticipate that many of these practices will reflect the recommendations for action made in the Report Card. In the third stage of the project, we will convene and provide training/education for the necessary partners and providers in the education, health services, law enforcement, and neighborhood communities to build consensus and commitment to improve trends in attendance. The design of this project assumes that other community-based coalitions and education and government entities will be focused on prevention and intervention and be linked directly to our processes. This project will focus on elementary grades only due to the pilot nature of the project and consideration of what is feasible in a two-year timeframe.