Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

Attendance: It’s Important to Be in Class

by Dr. Laura C. Moran

A strong body of research shows that chronic absenteeism is a powerful predictor of students at risk of not completing their education. Attendance Works, a national and state initiative, defines chronic absence as missing 10% or more of school for ANY reason.

Chronic absenteeism contributes to low academic achievement and disengagement from school. It is not only missing school at the secondary level that creates problems. Chronic absenteeism at the kindergarten and first grade levels can lead to delays in reading and math skills that can impact a student for years to come. An estimated 5 to 7 million students are chronically absent each year! Not completing high school and the lack of a high school diploma can have negative consequences for a student that last a lifetime.

One way to track absenteeism is to implement and utilize an Early Warning System (EWS). The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Dashboard Early Warning System (EWS) is a free, voluntary tool available to all commonwealth LEAs. Building upon existing data, the EWS provides a way for schools to identify students at risk of dropping out, review and implement the appropriate interventions and supports to assist students, and set goals for students in order to improve their success rates in graduating and completing high school.

For more information about the EWS check out the following sites:

• On the PATTAN website at the initiative “Increasing Graduation Rates and Decreasing Dropout Rates”, more information can be found under Seven Strategies to Increase Graduation Rates
• On the PDE SAS website at “Safe and Supportive Schools,” more information is located under Early Warning System

After tracking student absenteeism, many school personnel may wonder what they can do about it. Some attendance strategies are as follows:

• Identify underlying causes of chronic absenteeism for individual students and school wide by asking students why they are absent and engaging families.
• Consider recognizing students for improved attendance and not just perfect attendance.
• Provide a mentor for students who will monitor attendance and school progress.
• Meet with families to create an attendance plan.

For more information about attendance strategies for schools, families, and youth check out the following sites:

• On the PATTAN website at, under the initiative, “Increasing Graduation Rates and Decreasing Dropout Rates,” more information can be found under “Resources for Families” with a publication called, CAPS School Attendance:Strategies for Schools, Families, and Youth
• The Attendance Works website at provides research, policies, webinars, and strategies around attendance.

The next time a teacher is taking attendance, the answer he or she wants to hear from students is, “Here!”

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