- The engaging aspect that technology brings to the classroom may help educators battle absenteeism, with immersive tools like virtual and augmented reality, along with other types of ed tech, bringing lessons to life, according to an EdTech: Focus on K-12.
- Technology also allows districts to use “nudges,” or digital alerts, that help keep parents informed and send notices to students. In New York City Schools, for example, a data dashboard allows school mentors to see real-time attendance data and quickly flag students at risk of being chronically absent.
- In the 2015-16 school year, as many as 8 million students nationally were classified as chronically absent — up from 7.3 million two years earlier. One in 10 kindergarten and first grade students were chronically absent, and the figures are worse among students with special needs.
Tracking absenteeism is a good start, but it’s important to dig deeper to discover the root cause of the problem.
In addition to technology, school culture improvements can boost attendance because students are more likely to want to be at school. Maurice J. Elias, a professor at Rutgers University and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, said reducing bullying, harassment and unfair practices help students feel safer and more comfortable at school.
A project funded by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan — located in a state with the sixth-highest rate of chronic absenteeism — found housing insecurity has the biggest impact on absenteeism. In the Detroit Public Schools Community District, students who were considered homeless had an 86% chronic absenteeism rate, compared to a 56% chronic absenteeism rate for the rest of the students in the district.
Districts are taking several approaches to reduce chronic absenteeism. For example, in Connecticut's Meridian Public Schools, administrators and specialists meet weekly to monitor attendance and reach out when a student has missed three days. Santa Fe Public Schools in New Mexico occasionally has free donuts for students who arrive before school starts. In Alabama's Montgomery Public Schools, the district teamed up with the prosecutor’s office to hire social workers to work with families of chronically absent students.
And in 2010, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg created a task force to look at ways to increase school engagement. One of the initiatives assigned students “success mentors” and used technology to send students wake-up calls from celebrities like Michael Jordan.