Getting to the Heart of Chronic Absenteeism

In December 2016, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 410 to “encourage and support a preventative approach to excessive absences and truancy”. According to the Ohio Department of Education, several changes take effect this school year. Most importantly, schools can no longer suspend or expel students for missing too much school. HB410 also requires districts to “amend or adopt policies that outline their interventions and plans for students who miss too much school”.  These expectations, while new to many, are directly in line with the EnvisionEdPlus’ Four Tenets for Re-envisioning Education and the Care Team Collaborative work I incubated for the Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center more than 12 years ago.   

EnvisionEdPlus challenges school and community leaders to look holistically at the issue of chronic absenteeism.  Start by asking 4 critical questions:   

  1. What are the root causes for the students and families choosing absenteeism over consistent attendance?  
  2. How can we create a continuum of strategies to address each root cause?  
  3. How can we support individual students based on their personal reasons for not attending school? 
  4. Who are community partners with similar missions that can collaborate with us to implement the continuum of strategies our students need to succeed in school – and beyond?  

Root causes for absenteeism vary by student, family and community.  To figure out your local root causes, it is important to ask KIDS, ask parents, ask teachers, ask leaders and ask community members. Then – listen to the ‘why’ BEFORE you begin to determine what is ‘behind the behavior’.    The US Department of Education provides a Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism that might help you get started.

Here are just a few root causes and 12 strategies/resources which can impact behaviors.  Everything listed here is FREE!  Check out these resources and see how they might help your community address chronic absenteeism in your schools.

Lack of Connection to School

Lack of Engagement in School/Classroom Learning

  • Edutopia –  resources to help you implement project-based learning, social and emotional learning, comprehensive assessment, teacher development, integrated studies, and technology integration
  • Marzano Research (Tips for Highly Engaged Classroom) – This website is designed to assist you in applying the latest research in tangible ways in your classroom, school, or district.
  • Deeper Learning – One of the key topics of research for Getting Smart (an amazing educational think tank).  True deeper learning is developing competencies that enable all students to be prepared to graduate from high school and be college and career ready so they can make maximum use of their knowledge in life and work.

Mental Health/ATOD Challenges

  • Ohio Campaign for Hope (Kognito) – Outstanding (one of my favorites!) simulation-based online professional development for educators, parents – and even courses for students building skills to engage students in critical conversations about mental health, suicide and other challenges facing youth today.  
  • Start Talking – Ohio provides a wealth of resources to schools, communities and families related to prevention and intervention for drug related issues.  Resources include:
    • Parents 360x – increase parents’ knowledge of substance use and improve a parent’s confidence to speak with youth about substance use, particularly prescription drugs
    • Generation Rx – educational resources to help prevent prescription medication misuse
    • KNOW – provides parents and families with twice monthly, FREE Know! Parent Tips by email that contain current facts about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as action steps they can take to help children resist peer pressure to use.
    • HOPE Curriculum –  K-12 lessons, assessments and learning materials to develop students’ functional knowledge, attitudes and necessary skills to prevent drug abuse.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, or need support creating or implementing strategies, give us a shout. EnvisionEdPlus team members are happy to lend a hand.  We can do anything from acting as a virtual thought partner to facilitating planning or implementation to helping you find or secure grants to fund strategies unique to your community.  

Have a great start to the school year.

~ Michele Timmons, President


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