Principal Sarah Harris knows how to deliver the message on school attendance. She starts at the back-to-school breakfast the week before school begins at Vance Village Elementary School in New Britain, Connecticut. She emphasizes the theme again in her weekly robocalls to families and in the school’s monthly newsletter. She asks teachers to stress good attendance in personalized messages they record monthly for their own students. And she asks fifth graders to mention it they when make the daily announcements.
Messaging is just one piece of Harris’s approach to reducing chronic absence, an approach that brought the proportion of chronically absent students down from 24 to 7 percent in a single year. Amid the incentives, the data analysis and the mentoring lies a core principle: “Teachers must have the relationship to children and their families to reinforce why it matters to come to school every day,” she says.