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Student Attendance: Every Day Counts!

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For Educators

Welcome educators, school leaders and staff! The Every Day Counts! Taskforce meets on a bi-monthly basis and is a partnership among diverse District of Columbia agencies and stakeholders that collectively advance and coordinate strategies to increase student attendance and reduce truancy. The group includes representatives from education, justice, health clusters of the Administration, allowing for development and implementation of comprehensive attendance policies. Guided by an Ed Stat model, each Every Day Counts! Taskforce meeting focuses on a specific topic related to attendance.  To view the Every Day Counts! Taskforce presentations, visit the  Every Day Counts! Taskforce tab. After each meeting, the Taskforce posts key takeaways and relevant resources here.

In addition to the meeting takeaways and resources, you will also find resources related to encouraging and rewarding good and improved attendance. Please feel free to modify the resources to best fit the needs of your school community. For additional support and resources, please check out the For Families and Students tab.

Resources for the Start of the School Year:

Every Day Counts! Community of Practice 

Community of Practice


   Attendance Community of Practice (COP) meetings are a part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s district-wide Every Day Counts! Initiative. These monthly meetings are a unique opportunity for representatives from schools across the city to share effective practices and resources across    networks. In past sessions, we have explored using attendance data, expanding your attendance team, and engaging families in improving attendance outcomes. Below are highlights and resources from each of the sessions.

Topic: Engaging All School Staff and Community Partners

In SY 17-18, the team at Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) saw a significant reduction in the school’s chronic absenteeism rate, which they largely attribute to the engagement of all of their school staff and community partners as well as a tiered system of supports. Our Attendance Community of Practice hosted a discussion with CHEC’s team to further explore how to engage all school staff in attendance efforts and to identify resources and partners outside of your school community.

Here are a few strategies used at CHEC:

  • School-wide vision setting for attendance goals led by administrative team—strongly encouraged staff buy-in
  • Daily all-staff collaboration in attendance efforts (ongoing communication among teachers, attendance counselor, social workers, administrators, etc.)
  • Consistent data sharing and attendance goal-setting with students who have attendance challenges
  • Engaging community and agency partners in attendance efforts (ie. Department of Parks and Recreation)
  • Personalized early outreach (ie. home visits, phone calls, emails, SST meetings)
  • Programmatic school-wide attendance initiatives and incentives (ie. off-campus lunch with staff/students, school dances)

At the meeting, there was a special focus on “asset mapping”– a helpful tool that can be used to identify the strengths and resources of your school community.

Topic: Maximizing Attendance Partners: Best Practices from Ballou HS/Access Youth Partnership (November 2018)

Attendance partners such as Access Youth, Show Up Stand Out (SUSO), Communities in Schools (CIS), City Year, etc., are essential to helping improve student attendance outcomes. Our Attendance Community of Practice hosted a partnership discussion with a promising team at Ballou HS. We explored best practices on how attendance counselors, attendance partners, and school staff can work better together to improve attendance outcomes for students. Here are key takeaways/elements from the 2018 Ballou HS and Access Youth partnership team:

  • Regular meetings held
  • Ongoing data sharing tool 
  • Building consistent & strong relationships with students/families
  • Goal setting
  • Transparent & ongoing communication among partnership teams
  • Consistent collaboration

View Ballou/Access Youth Presentation

Topic: Improving Attendance and Fostering Family Engagement (October 2018)

C.W. Harris Elementary SchoolC.W. Harris Elementary School
In the 2017-2018 school year, the Attendance Team at C.W. Harris Elementary School saw a significant reduction in the school’s chronic absenteeism rate. Below are a few promising strategies used:
  •  Attendance Student Support Team (SST) weekly meetings
  •  Diversity of the team
  •  Systems and access to information
  •  Connect supports to family engagement best practices & Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT)
  •  Daily Incentives for Students-Attendance, Wheel of Fortune
  •  Incentivizing parents and families for improvements

View C.W. Harris Elementary School Presentation

Topic: Forming Strong School Attendance Teams (June 2018)

Spotlight on Success

Tubman Elementary SchoolIn the 2016/2017 school year, the Attendance Team at Harriet Tubman Elementary School used previous years' data to identify 80 students who missed 15 or more school days in the year. Through the following supports, school attendance significantly increased:


Early Preventions:

  • Used Aspen Portal to identify students who were chronically absent in the 2016/2017 school year
  • Partnered with community organizations to help improve family engagement strategies
  • School counselors, social workers, and other members of the Attendance Team developed caring relationships with families early on through phone calls home, letter communications, and regular check-ins

Continual Support for Each Student:

  • Used Aspen Portal weekly to monitor attendance progress among identified students
  • Established weekly and monthly incentives to encourage students/families who made attendance progress (ex. Field trips, festivals, parties)
  • Check-ins with students/families that were still having attendance challenges and identified strategies for continual school support
  • Monthly parent breakfasts to listen to feedback and develop action plans for success

View Tubman Elementary School presentation

Topic: Reframing Attendance Conversations at KIPP DC Heights Academy (May 2018)

 Leading through the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT), the newly formed Attendance Committee at KIPP DC Heights Academy implemented a three-tiered preventive approach to improve student attendance outcomes. Here are some promising strategies used:

 Action Research: How do we provide our families with more opportunities to tell us their “autobiographies” or their TRUTH? And how can we imbed their truth and make sure it is reflected in our attendance policies?

  • Family Attendance Breakfasts
  • Public Attendance Displays
  • Attendance Tips Board
  • Improved wrap-around services for families
  • Frequent Communication with students/families

View KIPP DC Heights Academy Presentation

Topic: Attendance Best Practices from Garfield Prep Academy (April 2018)

In the 2017-2018 school year, the team at Garfield Prep Academy were in search of new answers to improve their schools’ attendance outcomes. The team implemented a proactive approach, including a tiered system of supports for improving attendance. As a result of efforts, the chronic absenteeism rate at Garfield Prep Academy significantly decreased from 31.3% in the 2016-2017 school year to  25.7% in the 2017-2018 school year. Here are a few key strategies used:

  •  Personalized Early Outreach
  •  Social Media Campaigns
  • Newsletters/Announcements
  • Addressing Student Health Needs
  • Safe Passage
  • Mentoring
  •  Morning Pep Rallies
  • Programmatic School-Wide Initiatives

View Garfield Prep Academy Presentation

Topic: Mentorship (January 2017)

At the meeting we learned the following:

  • Decreased absences: Youth with mentors had fewer unexcused absences from class than students without mentors. Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.
  • Recruiting mentors: Word of mouth is the primary way in which organizations recruit mentors. 70% of organizations indicated that they do not have enough mentors to provide quality mentoring services.
  • Risk factors: The most prevalent risk factors among young people who are being mentored are school related, followed by trouble with the law and homelessness.
  • School based programs: In order to create a successful school-based mentorship program, the following advice was shared by practitioners: start within your school, start small and one size approach does not fit all schools’ needs.

Spotlight on Success

Eastern High SchoolEastern High School’s 100 MORE (Mentoring Others, Raising Expectations) provides opportunities for young men to mentor one another and find a mentor in an adult in their life with many school based staff participating in this mentor role. Through service learning opportunities, international and domestic travel, empowerment conferences, and professional workshops students are motivated to lift up others and to strive for success as leaders in their communities. For more information regarding the program, please contact Ivan Douglas at [email protected].

Recommended Resources

Topic: Trends by Time of Year (March 2017)

At the meeting we learned the following:

  • Days of the week: Student attendance is highest on Thursdays and the lowest on Mondays (followed closely by Fridays).
  • Temperature and time of year: Students are more likely to be absent when the temperature is between 31 – 40°F and attend with the highest frequency on days between 91- 100°F which also correlates with time of year. Attendance is highest in the fall and lowest in the spring.
  • Weather conditions: Students are 1.4 times more likely to be absent on days when it is snowing compared to days with no inclement weather.
  • Truancy pick-ups: MPD Districts 5, 6 and 7 have the highest percentage of pick-ups.

Spotlight on Success

E. L. HaynesDuring the year, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School noticed a pattern of low attendance on Mondays, Fridays or the day before or after a holiday. To increase their middle school in-seat attendance rate for the spring until the end of the year, they announced a special competition to staff, students and families after winter break. E.L. Haynes developed "Spring Forward to Excellent Attendance," which is a three-month competition that began on March 1st. Students and teachers have the opportunity to earn incentives (individual, grade level, school-wide) every month. To reinforce the importance of Every Day, On Time attendance, the many incentives provided to students and teachers are prize bags, $10-15 gift cards, dress down passes, and a Day Dance. Traditionally before long breaks and on Fridays, E.L. Haynes would have a significant number of students out. For this reason, they implemented “Fun Friday” celebrations before spring break to celebrate the students who achieved on time attendance and the grade levels who achieved the highest In-Seat Attendance rate for the month. Since implementation of challenges and the competition, E.L. Haynes Middle school has seen a nearly two percent growth for 6th and 7th grades. For more information regarding E.L. Haynes’ attendance initiatives, please contact Vanessa Lewis at [email protected]

Recommended Resources