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• A professor in the Psychology Department at Rutgers University and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, shares a two-step process to reduce chronic absenteeism: identifying and overcoming school barriers to attendance, and improving school environments and culture.
• What are some of the barriers to school attendance? How does access play a role in absenteeism?
Maurice J. Elias, a professor in the Psychology Department at Rutgers University and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, shared on Edutopia a two-step process for reducing chronic absenteeism. The first step involves identifying and overcoming barriers to school attendance and the second is creating a school environment that encourages student attendance.
He writes that when school leaders create a positive school culture, students are more likely to want to be at school. Reductions in negative factors, such as harassment, bullying, and unfair discipline practices can also help students feel safer. He writes that implementing social-emotional learning skills and support measures will help students feel as if the “school is their oasis, not their holding cell.”
According to data collected by Attendance Works, a nonprofit organization, nearly 8 million K-12 students in the U.S. missed three or more weeks of school during the 2015-16 school year. While many states and school districts are developing strategies to overcome barriers to student attendance, school leaders can also spend this summer considering what other efforts are needed to reduce absenteeism among those still facing obstacles. Some districts have attendance review teams that meet to determine what issues are causing students to miss school.
Changing discipline practices, however, will likely require more work in terms of teacher and administrative training. Restorative practices are growing in use as schools seek to limit suspensions, particularly among students of color.
A recent study shows that such a program in the Pittsburgh Public Schools was associated with an increase in attendance at the elementary level and among students with an Individual Education Program. Improving methods of communication with parents can also improve school attendance.
Read the full article about improving school culture to reduce absenteeism by Amelia Harper at Education Dive.