Leadership Insights

Successful Examples of Increasing School Attendance

By The Room 241 Team January 28, 2013

The motivation behind increasing school attendance should be obvious. Students who are fully engaged in the entire school process learn more, retain more, process lessons more effectively, and have a better chance of achieving long-term academic success. Simply stated, being there physically increases the odds of also being there mentally and emotionally.

Basis of truancy

Truancy refers to any unexcused absence from a required school day. State laws dictate school attendance rules and the required number of days any student must attend annually to be in compliance. But for many students, the laws governing school attendance are secondary to other factors in their lives that keep them away from the classroom:

  • Academic environment: Poor attitudes of faculty and administration or intimidation by peers.
  • Family support: Unhealthy home factors such as substance abuse, domestic violence or lack of supervision.
  • Economic factors: Poverty that translates to lack of transportation or inability to purchase academic supplies

Benefits of increased attendance

When school attendance is successfully improved, benefits can be measured in improved grades and test scores. But intangible benefits, such as increased self-esteem and a stronger sense of community, may be even more far-reaching in attempts at increasing school attendance.

Successful strategies

Successful attendance strategies need buy-in from all players including faculty, parents, and students. Comprehensive plans that are clearly communicated and subsequently monitored have the best chance of long-term success. Plans with the greatest odds of achieving improved attendance share these characteristics:

Clearly-communicated attendance policies

Everyone needs to be on the same page if a policy is to be successful. Teachers as well as students and their families need clearly defined parameters. Educators should create a written reference guide that spells out rules, rewards, and consequences and ensure it is accessible at home and in the classroom. It’s also important to reiterate the policy on a regular basis to maintain consistency.

Engaging curricula

It is not enough to mandate student attendance; students should want to come to school. Successful schools hire creative teachers and offer a challenging curriculum. They also invite students to be a part of decision-making processes as appropriate.

Sense of security

While students are in attendance at school, they need to feel secure and safe. Likewise, parents want to know their children are protected at school. Every school must not only implement iron-clad safety and security procedures, but should also perform practice drills on a regular basis.

Teachers, administrators, and counselors need to exemplify a sense of caring and approachability to the student body. Every student should have at least one faculty member they know they can turn to in a crisis.

Competition and motivation

Friendly competition is a motivator toward achieving success. A classroom party or field trip awarded for the best attendance record can be the defining factor in motivating students who need a tangible goal. Solicit prize donations from local businesses such as pizza restaurants or local attractions to keep costs minimal and to engage the entire community in the effort.

Personal stories of success

Stating the benefits of increased attendance to the student body is important, but real-life examples of success carry greater impact. Share the stories of students who changed their lives when they changed their attendance patterns. Invite former students to speak at school assemblies to tell their story. Celebrate and share personal successes in the on-going program.


Rewarding success is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we are rewarded, the more we strive to achieve further success. A rewards program can be simple and inexpensive, making it easier to maintain and sustain. Attendance Works, an initiative to improve attendance policies, suggests recognition programs including certificates, homework passes, and additional recess time. Teachers can engage students by soliciting their ideas on rewards they consider meaningful.

Measurement reports

Sustaining a program designed at increasing school attendance is dependent on the participants’ perception of achievement. Attendance programs need a means of measuring success with concrete facts and figures. These measurements should be reported on a regular basis to incentivize continued participation. Students and parents should meet with faculty members to review results and to offer ideas for continued improvements, and educators should raise the bar after each goal is achieved to ensure the program does not stagnate. It’s also essential to communicate both the successes and updated goal targets to everyone involved in the success of the program.

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