Catherine M. Cooney's Posts (45)

  • As educators and local education agency (LEA) administrators begin to think through the consequences of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)  requirements, some have voiced concerns about the impact that chronic absence will have on school and district ratings.

    This concern is understandable considering that only last year, most LEAs reported average daily attendance (ADA) levels in the 90 percent range, a level that seemed to communicate high levels of school attendance. This year, they will report the percentage of students with  low attendance. For many schools, this number will show that a sizeable percentage of students are likely missing too much school to be academically successful.

    How can schools comfortably make this shift in thinking about student absences? Attendance Works Senior Fellow Jane Sundius has developed a blog post with five points educators and LEAs can consider when thinking through their response to ESSA requirements. The post, Chronic Absence: It’s About Lost Instructional Time, Not Whether Absences are Excused or Unexcused, is the sixth in our series of posts highlighting issues related to implementation of state ESSA plans. 

    Find the series on the Attendance Works website.

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  • Reducing high levels of chronic absence is not a solo sport, but it can be fixed when schools and communities collaborate with multiple stakeholders such as sports teams, business,  law enforcement and more. It's essential to use data to determine who, when and where students are most likely to miss too much school.


    Mark your calendars for Team Up for Attendance: Community Matters, on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 11-12:30 pm (PST) / 2-3:30 pm (EST). Learn how to engage key partners and hear real-world examples of how health care, early childhood, and national service volunteers are helping students and families overcome barriers to getting to school, and supporting a culture of attendance that encourages showing up every day, even when it isn't easy.

    Registration is opening soon

    Please note: Due to the high level of interest in this series, we are likely to exceed the webinar room capacity of 500! Once you register you will receive the webinar recording, PowerPoint slides and other materials whether you attend or not. You might consider organizing a separate session to watch with a group using the recording and discussion guide. Guests are welcome to log in 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the webinar.

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  • The recent shifts prompted by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has helped raise the stakes for schools around student absences. 

    What, then, are schools to do in order to move the needle on student attendance? One popular approach in schools is using a wide range of incentives to improve attendance. Yet some of these programs have had varied levels of success. 

    A recent article by senior researchers Rekha Balu at MDRC and Stacy Ehrlich at NORC at the University of Chicago provides a framework to help school staff think about how—and when—to use incentives to improve student attendance.  Their article recommends that educators step back and consider if incentives are an appropriate intervention, and then think about how to design incentives in ways that address the specific attendance barriers.

    Their article includes four sets of questions to help educators develop incentives programs designed to reduce chronic absence.

    Find a summary of Balu's and Ehrlich's article on the Attendance Works website.  

    You can find the full study, Making Sense out of Incentives: A Framework for Considering the Design, Use, and Implementation of Incentives to Improve Attendance, published in JESPAR (the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk).


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  • We've posted the webinar recording, the presentations (Power Point slides) and a discussion guide from our May 8 webinar, Team Up for Attendance: Working Together Matters.  Over 1,500 people registered for the webinar, where we heard from:

    • Ayeola Fortune, United Way Worldwide
    • Lukas Weinstein, Senior Director of Regional Initiatives, Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools
    • Daphne Strader, Director of Coordinated School Health, Albuquerque Public Schools
    • Dolores Espinosa, Assistant Principal, Lavaland Elementary School, Albuquerque Public Schools
    • Lindsay Wisely, Principal, Antioch Middle School
    • Hedy Chang and Cecelia Leong, Attendance Works                         

    The speakers addressed:

    • How schools in Antioch, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, developed effective school attendance teams using teachers and school staff, and which partners they recruited from the community to support their work.
    • How Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools is using a three-tiered approach to address chronic absence, and how adding prevention and early intervention strategies helps more students overcome challenges to getting to school.
    • How a school in Antioch is using the Attendance Works Teaching Attendance Curriculum to develop whole school strategies to address chronic absence. 

    You can still hear about these topics, and several more ! Download the recording and other materials from our website here



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    Interested in learning the basics of reducing chronic absence? 

    Attendance Works is partnering with Teaching Ready for our Teaching Attendance Curriculum. This curriculum is a research-based, educational program for educators. The courses provide knowledge, guidance and resources for principals, teachers and school support staff to address and overcome chronic absence in grades K-12th.

    Learn at your own pace in this online, interactive series using videos, reflections and opportunities to apply concepts throughout. 

    Module 1: Why We Teach Attendance was released in March. Module 2: Creating a Culture of Attendance will be released on May 8th.

    Find out more about the Curriculum, and register to get access to the modules on our website

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  • The Attendance Awareness Month Campaign webinar series is off to a strong start this year. The kickoff webinar, Team Up for Attendance: Leadership Matters, attracted nearly 1,900 registrations!

    Under the AAM 2018 theme Team Up for Attendance!, each webinar will explore the role different community partners can play in reducing chronic absence. Speakers will come from successful campaigns that have mobilized communities to take action.

    Mark your calendars. Here is the complete schedule of webinars for Attendance Awareness Campaign 2018:

    • March 28: Leadership Matters, will highlight the crucial role leaders play in mobilizing their communities to action. Find the webinar recording, PowerPoint presentation link and discussion guide here.
    • May 8: Working Together Matters, will focus on building and training teams in schools with robust participation from community partners. Register here.
    • August 15: Community Matters, will explore the role that a variety of key community partners can play in helping to reduce chronic absence.
    • September 12: Health Matters, will showcase our brief highlighting bright spots where successful strategies to address health barriers have reduced chronic absenteeism.

    Watch for the registration link to each webinar on this page

    Please note: Due to the high level of interest in this series, we are likely to exceed the webinar room capacity of 500! Once you register you will receive the webinar recording, PowerPoint slides and other materials whether you attend or not. You might consider organizing a separate session to watch with a group using the recording and discussion guide. Guests are welcome to log in 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the webinar.


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  • Did you know that students with disabilities are among those most frequently absent from school at every grade level? Typically, these children are also the ones who most need the supports and resources that schools provide. 

    While we shift our focus to increased accountability for chronic absenteeism, we want to make sure that new policies and practices don't punish or blame students with disabilities and their families.

    In the fourth blog in our series highlighting attendance-related issues that are emerging as states work through the complexities of implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, we've gathered eight simple approaches that administrators, principals and teachers can take to support students with disabilities and their families and that can boost attendance.

    Find out more on our blog.  

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  • Attendance Works is developing a series of four webinars with the National Student Attendance, Engagement, and Success Center (NSAESC) for January 2018.

    The free one hour webinars are open to the pubic, and will provide detailed approaches for addressing chronic absence in schools. The webinars will cover the three-tiered system of interventions - a proven approach in use in many school systems, and strategies to help create a welcoming school climate:

    * Taking a Multi-Tiered Approach to Attendance Improvement at the State, District and School Level, January 9, 2018 at 1 pm EST/ 10 am PST.

    * Creating a Warm and Engaging School Climate to Support Attendance, January 16, 2018 at 1 pm EST/ 10 am PST.

    * Teaching Attendance: Involving Educators with Attendance Improvement Strategies, January 23, 2018 at 1 pm EST/ 10 am PST.

    * Equipping Success Mentors with the Necessary Skills to Support Students with Disabilities, January 30, 2018 at 1 pm EST/ 10 am PST. (This webinar will last 90 minutes.)

    Learn more about the NSAESC and its partners, and find links to previous webinars on our website.   

    Mark you calendars and  Register for all four webinars today!

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  • “This is an incredible watershed moment,” declared Hedy Chang, Executive Director of Attendance Works at the 2017 Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR) State Leads meeting. This annual gathering, held this year on November 13 in Orlando, FL., creates opportunities for leaders to exchange ideas on advancing the work of ensuring that children read at grade level by the end of third grade.

    Chang moderated a panel describing strategic opportunities for GLR state leaders and local GLR campaigns to leverage the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans in states. At this pivotal moment - with 36 and the District of Columbia including measuring attendance as part of their school quality indicator for their state accountability rubric - states and communities have the opportunity to leverage the law to address chronic absence, Chang said. Sue Fothergill, Associate Director for Policy at Attendance Works also discussed the opportunities for states to take action.

    The panel highlighted efforts by the Arkansas Campaign for Grade Level Reading and Strategies for Children to advance the work to reduce chronic absenteeism.

    “The good news is that the state is very willing to work with us,” said Angela Duran, Campaign Director of the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Our state seems to be doing a very good job breaking down the silos. Chronic absence is not something to the side but a necessary precondition to achieving education goals,” Duran said.

    Read more in the full blog post on the Attendance Works website . 

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  • A big heartfelt thank you to all of the Campaign communities who rallied around activities to reduce chronic absenteeism during Attendance Awareness Month this year! 

    As we wrap up AAM 2017 we are interested to hear from you. If you have a moment, please take a few minutes and complete a short survey to give us a sense of how you participated this year and how things worked. Please finish the survey by October 30, 2017 and we will enter your name into a raffle to win one of two $50 gift cards. You can find the survey here.

    If you’re a nonprofit partner, give us feedback on the collaborating partners survey.

    We saw record levels of participation this year. Communities planned rallies, hosted poster contests and high-fived students as they arrived at school. The numbers show we have support from 69 national partners and had 617 pins by Superintendents on the Action Map. Learn more in our blog.

    Thanks again for all of your efforts designed to ensure all students have an opportunity to learn and thrive. 

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  • We all know that chronic absence in the early grades often results in students not learning to read by third grade. A new study shows that teachers didn't feel excessively burdened when they took the lead in a program that significantly reduced absenteeism among 1st, 2nd grade students! 

    Called the Early Truancy Prevention Project, the program was designed to boost attendance of primary-grade kids by facilitating communication between teachers and parents. The teachers took the lead role in intervening with students when attendance problems emerged.

    The researchers report that the program:

    *  reduced the prevalence of frequent absences by about 10%

    *  is the first program for younger students to have demonstrated effectiveness 

    *  was implemented in 20 classrooms in five high-poverty public elementary schools 

    *  teachers reported improved communication between parents and teachers. 

    Check it out and download the full study:

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  • This month, as part of the fifth annual Attendance Awareness Month campaign, MENTOR National Mentoring Partnership, is sharing stories and resources showcasing the power of strong relationships to keep students involved in school. In the first post, Stephen Kostyo, Policy Advisor at the Learning Policy Institute and former middle and high school science teacher, writes about his experiences building meaningful relationships so students would want to come to his class. Read the full blog, "A Teacher's View on Reducing Chronic Absenteeism." 

    Throughout the month, and especially during the Mentoring In Real Life Attendance Week, MENTOR is inviting mentoring programs, youth serving organizations, schools and all campaign partners to help amplify this message on social media. In collaboration with Attendance Works MENTOR has released a promotional toolkit with mentoring and attendance specific social media messages. Download the toolkit here.

    Remember to include #SchoolEveryDay and #MentorIRL in every post!

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  • Attendance Awareness Month Action Map

    We’re excited by the first day welcomes, rallies, poster contests, billboards and other activities we see taking place in schools and communities this month. What are you doing to send the message of the important role that regular attendance plays in student achievement, and the need to address common barriers to getting to school particularly for our most vulnerable children?
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  • Just how are states handling the use of chronic absence as an indicator as they implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? Attendance Works has launched a series of blog posts that examine attendance-related issues that are emerging as states work through the complexities of responding to ESSA.

    The recently submitted state plans for implementing ESSA show that chronic absence is gaining traction as an indicator of school quality and student success. At this point, the majority—14 out of the 17 officially submitted ESSA plans—includes some variant of chronic absence as an accountability indicator and many other states with plans in preparation seem likely to follow suit. And we've seen that the nature of the indicator and definitions of chronic absence differ, as do their attendance goals and intervention points. 

    Attendance Works is excited by the opportunity that the increased focus on chronic absence provides because it has the potential to increase student achievement substantially. Our first blog takes a look at different approaches to chronic absence indicators in state plans and unravels the complexity of using a positive indicator. 

    We hope this series stimulates conversation about ESSA planning and implementation. We would love to hear from you on this topic! Please share your comments with Sue Fothergill, Associate Director of Policy, at

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  • Educators in states across the country are seeing that current immigration policy changes are leading to increased chronic absence. As a way to reassure parents and students that school is a safe place for learning, states and districts have posted resources to encourage families with immigrant children to continue getting the students to school every day.

    Resources range from letters sent to school communities and families reaffirming anti-discrimination polices, to toolkits with tips for dealing with anxious students, to videos for parents on how to communicate with their young children on topics that are particularly difficult to tackle, such as bullying. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, for example, just released this video, in Spanish with English subtitles. 

    “Being in class every day is critical for academic achievement. We know that all students are more likely to come to school, and parents are more likely to take their kids to school, when they feel their school is a safe place for learning,” says Hedy N. Chang, executive director of Attendance Works.

    Read more in our blog and find a sampling of these resources.

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  • The next Attendance Awareness Month 2017 webinar, The Secret Formula 1+2+3: Improving Attendance for Our Most Vulnerable Students,  focuses on providing a warm and engaging start to the school year as well as working across agencies to ensure additional supports for our most vulnerable students. Join Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, and a cross-section of speakers  on August 8, 2017 2:00-3:30 PM EDT.

    We look forward to seeing you! Speakers will discuss how to create a positive culture of attendance for all students with a warm and engaging start to the school year. We'll also address how educators can ensure additional supports for our most vulnerable students, including those who are living in public housing, involved in the foster care system, or are exposed to trauma.

    Presenters include:

    * Ayeola Fortune, United Way Worldwide
    * Dr. Martha Merchant, University of California, San Francisco
    * Silvia Cordero, San Francisco Unified School District
    * Janet Meeks, Delray Beach School District
    * Minsun Meeker, National Center for Youth Law’s FosterEd CA
    * and Hedy Chang, Attendance Works

    The webinar will also highlight the newest resources from Attendance Works including our updated teacher toolkit, Teaching Attendance 2.0 with new messaging materials, and the indispensable Attendance Awareness Month resource Count Us In! toolkit.

    Don’t miss out on this free webinar! Register here.

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  • The National Student Attendance, Engagement, and Success Center (NSAESC) is excited to offer training and technical assistance to eligible districts and states around the implementation of early warning systems. Apply Today!  

    The National Center is led by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, and Jobs for the Future. 

    Early Warning Systems (EWS) combine predictive student data of Attendance, Behavior, and Course Performance, with a Tiered Response system designed to prevent and intervene to keep students on-track to graduation. Technical assistance state and district visits will include hands-on, targeted assistance, that bring experts to the community to provide strategic consultation to local stakeholders on EWS and addressing chronic absenteeism.

    Site visits can include formal trainings, school observations, planning meetings, and presentations. Don’t miss out!

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  • On June 13th and 14th, Attendance Works participated in the 2017 Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Funder Huddle in Denver. The Huddle brought together over 200+ executives and program officers from family and community foundations, United Ways and corporate giving programs, and provided an invaluable opportunity for funders to exchange ideas about how to address chronic absence as part of a comprehensive strategy for ensuring young children ready by the third grade.

    As the mini-plenary closing speaker on June 14th, Hedy Chang, Attendance Works’ Executive Director, shared how this is a watershed moment during which states and communities have the opportunity to leverage the changes in federal law to address chronic absence. The speakers focused on how states working to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are adopting chronic absence as an indicator of school quality or student success. In fact, 14 out of the 17 officially submitted ESSA plans includes chronic absence.

    The forum created an opportunity for Attendance Works to showcase the role that philanthropy can play in reducing chronic absence by honoring Jim Williamson, President of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. Jim’s commitment and passion for children  played a critical role in launching and sustaining the New Britain, Campaign for Grade Level Reading.  “Connecticut is the first state in the nation to show consistent reductions in chronic absence for three years in a row,” Hedy said. “Jim Williamson serves as an inspiring example of how philanthropy, especially a local community foundation can have an enduring impact on improving outcomes for children.”

    Find out more about the mini-plenary and Jim's contribution to helping students be in school every day  in our blog post

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  • Opportunities abound that offer tips, advice and strategies about how you can begin, or deepen efforts to address chronic absence in your school, district or community!

    This spring the National Student Attendance, Engagement, and Success Center (NSAESC) is sponsoring a series of webinars to share practices around early warning systems that identify students who are chronically absent. Each webinar is open to the public and will also share strategies to support Success Mentor initiatives. Find one that fits into your schedule.

    Learn more about the NSAESC on our blog, and Register for the webinars here!

    NSAESC operates in partnership with the US Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Schools. Other partners that support NSAESC are:

    • Attendance Works

    • Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University

    • Jobs for the Future

    • National Success Mentors Initiative

    • Mentor

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  • The second of four Attendance Awareness Month 2017 webinars focuses on early outreach and intervention. Join us and learn what teachers, mentors, school nurses and other caring adults can do to identify and help students improve attendance as soon as they show signs of falling off track. Here's the info:

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017: It Takes Two: Adding Early Intervention Strategies to Address Chronic Absence (11:00 am – 12:30 pm PT / 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm ET).

    Register Now!

    Each webinar in this year’s series builds on the previous one. If you missed the first webinar, Reducing Chronic Absence: It’s a Matter of 1, 2, 3! you can find the recording and webinar materials here on our website.

    Please note: Due to the high level of interest in this series, we are likely to exceed the webinar room capacity of 500! Please note that once you register you will receive the webinar recording, PowerPoint slides and other materials whether you attend or not. You might consider organizing a separate session to watch with a group using the recording and discussion guide. Guests are welcome to log in 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the webinar on May 23.

    See you on May 23!

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