Attendance matters: Improvement strategies show promising results at two HISD elementary schools

More and more, educators are realizing that attendance is critical to a child’s academic success. In fact, attendance is directly tied to performance – in general, the lower a child’s attendance rate, the lower their grades. Chronic absenteeism (missing 10 percent or more days a year) leads to a greater chance of that child dropping out of school.

HISD’s Family and Community Engagement Dept. (FACE) has been using a new initiative to increase attendance at Franklin and Whittier elementary schools, with positive results. FACE provided professional development for teachers and attendance clerks, a workshop for parents on the importance of attending school, and programs to promote attendance. The attendance plan had three major components: a data-tracking system, a rewards program, and chronic-absenteeism intervention.

Officials used December 2012 as a starting point, because December is consistently one of the lowest months for attendance throughout the district. After the FACE initiative, attendance was tallied a year later at both campuses in December 2013. Attendance at Franklin increased from 94.9 percent in December 2012 to 96.2 percent in December 2013, while attendance at Whittier during the same period increased from 96.2 percent to 96.9 percent.

Students with perfect attendance at Franklin were entered in a raffle to win prizes purchased with funds from Crayola, and these were awarded during an AttenDANCE for those students. Franklin also had special-dress days when students were allowed to wear a crazy hat or other fun item of clothing. Classes with perfect attendance received special prizes, as well.

Teachers at Whittier encouraged perfect attendance with classroom incentives such as stickers or lunch with the teacher. Students with perfect attendance were allowed to attend a bimonthly dance, and teachers with perfect attendance were entered in a raffle for prizes.

Intervention at both schools involved daily calls home and home visits after three consecutive absences. More information on the FACE attendance initiative can be found at

HISD Attendance Policy states that a student must be in school for at least two hours to be considered present for half a day and four hours to be considered present for a full day. Under expanded state requirements for school attendance, students who miss too many class sessions receive a grade of “NG,” which means that their grade is blocked due to poor attendance. Then it is up to the parents to find out from the school what steps they and their child need to take to recover credit. Various options are detailed in a recent HISD story on attendance.

Attendance Works, a national initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success, has a wealth of attendance-related tools and materials for both parents and schools.