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Every School Day Counts: The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data
NCES 2009-804
February 2009

Challenge: System Automation

Why does technology matter? In organizations that lack automated data systems, school staff members are more likely to fall behind when trying to track student attendance on a daily or more frequent basis. Although technology has improved greatly over the years, attendance continues to be recorded by hand in some organizations, which invariably leads to entry errors and data quality concerns. Finally, a school without an automated data system may fail to contact parents in a timely manner when students don't come to school. This may not be, strictly speaking, a data quality issue, but the timeliness of those calls to parents is often a key factor in attendance intervention efforts.

RECOMMENDATION: UPGRADE INFORMATION SYSTEMS. Organizations with inadequate technology may need to consider the feasibility of upgrading existing data systems or purchasing/building a new system. In addition to hardware and software costs, any changes to the data system must be accompanied by training if staff members are to be expected to have the expertise needed to collect and report high-quality attendance data.

RECOMMENDATION: AUTOMATE COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY. Many technological options are available for improving communications related to student attendance issues. For example, some school districts use an automated system to notify parents each time a student is absent. These notification systems can generate letters, email, or phone messages designed by policymakers. Another communications strategy is to provide daily correspondence through one of these media to notify parents of a student's attendance status (either present or absent). Other intervals may be appropriate for automated communications, such as when consequences are triggered by a certain number of absences. No matter the specific communication medium, district upon district has shown that proactive communication with parents is an effective tool for remedying student attendance concerns.