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New Toolkit Gives Pointers on Parent Engagement and Attendance

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A new toolkit to engage parents in improving students' attendance in schools was released on May 20 by Attendance Works, a national and state initiative that promotes better policy and practice around school attendance.

"Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence"
is a 24-page, in-depth examination of how parents can become champions of school attendance, and why engaging them is key to any school's efforts to decrease absenteeism.

The toolkit begins with a quote from Olga Nunez, a California parent, who says, "Even though I went to college, I didn't know that missing 18 days or just two days a month—even in kindergarten—could put my son behind academically." That message on absenteeism is the one that Attendance Works strives to convey—including the fact that, by 6th grade, missing only that much school is strongly linked to course failure and even eventually dropping out of high school.

The organization created the parent-engagement toolkit with the help of practitioners who have succeeded in the area of working with families to improve attendance. Age-appropriate tips are provided for parents whose children attend elementary, middle, and high school.
The toolkit offers:

  • Research about the positive relationship between parent involvement and attendance;

  • Information from new studies that look at parents' attitudes about school absences and their implications for messaging and action;

  • Key principles that are useful in engaging parents to promote attendance;

  • Materials to share with parents about the importance of good attendance; and

  • Interactive exercises to spark awareness, conversation and action with groups of parents about the consequences of poor attendance on their children's futures.

From the appearance of the materials provided, the initiative to launch an "improve your attendance" campaign need not originate within the school. Parent and community organizations can launch such a program in conjunction with the schools. In Providence, R.I., one such partnership initiative is working to boost attendance.

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