Supporting Student Attendance and Engagement

The Importance of Student Attendance and Engagement

 It is important for districts and schools to work with students, families and partners to support student attendance and engagement in-person education (including Alternative School and Innovative Education Pilot Program options), credit flexibility and blended learning. Barriers to attendance looked different during the 2020-2021 school year and may continue to be significant for some students in the 2021-2022 school year.  Ohio’s most vulnerable students were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their risk of absences in both in-person and online education environments. Students who were chronically absent in previous years are more likely to face barriers to engage in their education, but even students who have not been chronically absent in the past experience barriers to engagement and attendance.

Districts should partner with families and connect with community resources to identify approaches that accommodate the unique situations of each student and be intentional about supporting students’ social, emotional and behavioral health and their academic success.
Families may continue to face unprecedented stress, trauma and challenges as students return to their academic setting. It is important to take a supportive and preventative approach to student attendance and engagement to ensure families are empowered to engage in education. Accurately tracking student attendance and providing early intervention and supports will set students up for success. Districts and schools should continuously review student attendance data to determine progress and challenges. Truancy and court involvement should be an option only after supportive and preventive approaches have continuously been unsuccessful.

The Ohio Department of Education, along with its partners who are committed to increasing student attendance, is driven by and strongly encourages schools and districts to consider the following guiding principles for gauging attendance and engagement in a student’s education setting.
 

Guiding Principles

KEEP IN CONTACT

Maintain contact information for students and families and build strong relationships that can endure time and distance.
  • Student and parent contact information. First and foremost, maintain regularly updated contact information for students and parents. This can be a first step in preventing students—especially the state’s most vulnerable students—from falling through the cracks.
  • Digital access. Use outreach opportunities to learn more about the student and family’s digital access, including internet connectivity and technology devices. Successful digital online learning experiences require consistent access to the internet and technology devices.
  • Engage and build long-term trust. Continue to establish meaningful communication that connects students, families, educators and, in some cases, other caring adults from the community. This builds trust and enables collaboration that empowers families and communities to support student attendance. Parent and family engagement can include creating connections to community supports that meet the needs of the whole child, trainings on technology, and clearly communicating district and school attendance expectations.
Students and families benefit from relationships with teachers, school staff, coaches and mentors. These caring adults play vital roles in communicating with families and often know how best to stay in touch as they are the individuals who students see most often.
 

PAY ATTENTION TO HEALTH AND SAFETY FIRST 

The focus on consistent student attendance, including exposure to and engagement in learning, should be balanced with the priority of putting the health and safety of students, families and educators first. Attendance policies and practices should not unintentionally penalize students and staff who should remain home while sick .  


EMPHASIZE STUDENT PRESENCE AND ENGAGEMENT

The keys to ensuring students are present, engaged and supported in learning include maintaining frequent contact with students and families, connecting students to appropriate resources, encouraging student participation and offering enriching, interesting and engaging learning opportunities.
 

USE DATA TO DRIVE DECISIONS

Leverage use of short- and long-term attendance data to identify root causes of absences and understand successes and opportunities, support diverse learning styles, identify solutions and drive continuous improvement. As part of this work, districts and schools are encouraged to consistently collect, report and pay attention to student attendance data to provide supports and interventions.
 

LEVERAGE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS THAT ADDRESS THE WHOLE SYSTEM

Collaborate with strategic community partners to strengthen efforts to support attendance and exposure to and engagement in learning. Each education partner has unique insight that can help inform direction. Community partners can provide a variety of services and supports to promote regular attendance and remove barriers for families and students who struggle to attend school. Community partners are an excellent resource in supporting mental health and well-being initiatives for students and their families. Community partners may include state support teams, educational service centers, county juvenile courts, county child welfare agencies and community mental health agencies.
 

USE A MULTI-TIERED SYSTEM TO SUPPORT THE WHOLE CHILD

It is crucial to support the needs of the whole child by using a multi-tiered system of support to remove barriers that prevent students from participating and engaging in learning, mitigate negative learning experiences, address lack of engagement and misconceptions and provide needed social-emotional supports. Ohio’s Whole Child Framework provides a blueprint to meet these whole child needs, which are foundational to a child’s intellectual and social development and necessary for students to fully engage in learning and school.
These guiding principles were informed by the Ohio Department of Education’s partnership with the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Proving Ground and Attendance Works. Each of these partners collaborate to increase student attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism through the Stay in the Game! Network. For more information, please visit SITGNetwork.org.
 

Checklist

Before filing a truancy complaint with your juvenile court, consider the following checklist.

ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY INSTRUCTION

 The student has been offered academic supports, such as tutoring, small-group instruction or other personalized supports.
 The student has access to working technology and consistent high-speed internet.  
 The district trained the student and family on how to access and use education platforms and other technology.
 District ensured education platforms are streamlined and easy for the student and family to access and navigate.


EFFECTIVE FAMILY ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES

 The district has up-to-date contact information for the student and has tried multiple means to reach the family, such as phone calls, home visits and virtual visits. The district has tried contacting the family at different times of the day. These attempts and outcomes have been documented.
 The family knows how to communicate absences with the school.
 The family knows how and when to monitor their child’s attendance.
 The student’s schedule is easy to understand and accessible to the family.
 The student’s teacher makes regular attempts to engage with the student and reaches out to the family directly on days the student has missed education opportunities.
 Language supports, including interpretation or translation services, have been provided for parents and guardians with limited English proficiency.
 The family is connected to community resources to remove barriers, such as food, housing, transportation, childcare, or mental and physical health services so the student can attend and engage in learning.
 

OHIO’S ATTENDANCE LAWS AND LOCAL ATTENDANCE POLICIES

 The district’s attendance policy has been updated to include reasons for excused and unexcused absences for in-person learning and online education experiences. These changes have been communicated with families.
 The district has an accurate attendance record for the student. that reflects both absences from in-person and online education experiences.
 Student absences due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or the requirement to quarantine are considered excused and do not count toward habitual truancy triggers.
 ​The district has followed the truancy process outlined in Ohio Revised Code, including providing written notice of excessive absences, engaging parents in an absence intervention team meeting and providing an absence intervention plan with supportive interventions. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions about Ohio's Attendance Laws for more information.

Important notes to consider when implementing Ohio’s attendance laws during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Absences due to medical excuses count toward the student’s attendance record but do not count toward excessive absence and truancy triggers. A district may consider absences due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine as medically excused. 
  • A student who is quarantined, but not ill, may be able to engage in online education. If a student is participating in online education experiences during a quarantine period, the student should not be considered absent.  
  • The district will create an absence intervention plan in partnership with the family and student to determine the root causes of the absences. Districts are required to make three meaningful attempts to engage the parents in the absence intervention team meeting after the student became habitually truant. Best practice is to reach out to the family using different modes of communication and at different times of the day. If the family does not respond to attempts to participate in the absence intervention team, the district should provide a copy of the plan to the family upon completion.
  • The absence intervention plan will provide supports for the family to overcome barriers to attendance.
  • The absence intervention plan will define what “success” looks like for students and families.
  • The family has 60 days to implement the absence intervention plan. A truancy complaint may be filed ahead of the 60th day only if the student was absent without legitimate excuse for 30 consecutive hours or 42 hours in a month during implementation of the plan.
  • If it is determined the family did not make progress on the plan, the district may file a truancy complaint with juvenile court. Success should be determined on a case-by-case basis and should take each student’s circumstances into account. Districts should not file a truancy complaint with juvenile court if it is determined a student and family made progress on the absence intervention plan. A district is not required to file a truancy complaint at the end of the 60-day implementation period.​
For more information regarding supporting student attendance, please contact the Office of Integrated Student Supports at wholechild@education.ohio.gov.
 

Return to Back to School: Resources for Return

Last Modified: 8/13/2021 1:03:51 PM