Best practices and opportunities from Every Student Present initiative to reduce high absenteeism in New York schools.
The Every Student Present public awareness campaign, spearheaded by the Council on Children and Families (CCF), helps school leadership, parents, and communities to make school attendance a habit. The campaign was created in response to data from Attendance Works, an initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success.
Although all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, perform poorly in school when they are chronically absent, Attendance Works found that satisfactory school attendance is particularly problematic among children living in poverty. They also found that 82% of the schools where children are at risk of falling behind academically due to attendance levels have a highly multicultural student population. Therefore, this is a case where absenteeism has to be addressed as an overall issue while overlaying a focus on specific issues of the cultural and racial groups that are most impacted by it.
Below are best practices used by CCF and Attendance Works when developing the strategy and tactical plan for Every Student Present, as well as opportunities to enhance their approach:
Use overall and segment-specific data to drive programs. Since they defined the problem among both the overall population as well as for individual income and cultural segments, they have been able to implement an appropriate mix of general and targeted solutions to tackle it.
Engage stakeholders with in-language tools. Recognizing that people learn, understand and retain information best if it is taught to them in their native language, they developed materials in English, Spanish and Chinese for schools to help parents understand the impact of absenteeism, track child attendance and take action.
Leverage the reach of community-based organizations (CBOs). Contextual barriers that impact school attendance, such as transportation, also affect minority and low-income family involvement in school. To deliver the message outside the educational system, they partnered with CBOs that parents already go to as trusted resources. Churches and community groups, for example, are a source of health and health care information for almost 1/3 of Latinos.
Train using audiovisual material. Given that low-income minority parents may have lower education and literacy levels, the initiative needs to consider using audiovisual rather than written materials to engage them. Dubbing the home page video into Spanish and Chinese could be a good start.
Partner with ethnic media outlets. While media outreach is already part of the program, it should be expanded to target those that get their news from ethnic media on a regular basis (57 million at a national level). That requires developing in-language press releases and other materials to ensure that nothing gets lost in translation, plus building relationships with influencers such as New America Media, a collaboration of 3,000 ethnic news organizations.
 Training in Native Language Makes Workplaces Safer. SHRM article, Jan. 24, 2014.
 Ethnicity and Language Contributions to Dimensions of Parent Involvement. School Psych Review. 2006; 35(4): 645–662.
 Hispanics and Health Care in the United States: Access, Information and Knowledge. Pew Hispanic Center, August 2008.
 Predictors of Reading Comprehension for Struggling Readers: The Case of Spanish-speaking Language Minority Learners. Journal of Educational Psych. 2010 August; 102(3): 701–711.
 Ethnic Media Outlets Seek To Fill Coverage Gap. NPR, Aug. 18, 2011.