What strategies are most likely to improve PPSD student attendance and engagement?
Overview: PPSD set an ambitious goal of increasing the percentage of students who are present 90% of the school year from 63% in the 18-19 school year to 90% in the 24-25 school year. The pandemic exacerbated already high levels of absenteeism which has led the district to double down on efforts to improve student engagement and attendance. We have been working with the district to not only identify trends in absenteeism but also to identify causes. In partnership with district stakeholders, we are providing recommendations on how the district can develop policies and processes that support tiered interventions grounded in data and research.
Background: This project started as a request from the PPSD leadership cabinet in the Spring of 2021 stemming from their desire to better understand how COVID impacted attendance in the district. Our findings showed that excessive absenteeism increased significantly during the 2020-21 school year. Nearly one third of students missed over 25% of the school year. Given these findings, PPSD wanted to ensure that they were tackling attendance head-on during the most recent school year which led to more frequent and ongoing analyses of student attendance and engagement during the 2021-22 school year.
Methods: We used daily district attendance data to share findings on start of year attendance trends. This included an overview of attendance during the first two weeks of school, the first month of school and the first quarter of the school year. We found that attendance bounced back slightly from the 2020-21 school year but was not as high as pre-pandemic levels. Based on the initial absenteeism trends in the district, we collaborated to develop a research-based intervention plan and used prior year attendance data to predict students who were most at risk for being excessively and chronically absent this year so that the district could target their engagement efforts.