A publication of the Association of California School Administrators
A publication of the Association of California School Administrators
You can’t teach an empty seat
Enhancing attendance in K-12 settings through DEI strategies
By Dwight Rogers | November | December 2023
In K-12 education, fostering an inclusive and equitable learning environment is essential for student success. One key aspect that significantly impacts student outcomes is attendance. By implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies, educators can promote a sense of belonging, engagement and overall well-being, leading to improved attendance rates. In marginalized K-12 communities, improving Average Daily Attendance (ADA) rates can have heartfelt benefits for the district, families and students. Higher attendance rates contribute to increased access to resources, stronger community engagement and improved academic outcomes.
This article explores various evidence-based strategies and the significance of improved ADA in marginalized K-12 communities highlighting the positive effects on resources, families and students. Drawing on research and expert opinions, this article also aims to shed light on the transformative potential of ADA improvements in these communities. In Conejo Valley Unified School District, we are implementing strategies which are part of our district’s DEI plan along with incorporating the State of California’s Anti-Bias Education Grant. Utilizing the grant format and strategies within the district’s DEI plan ensures accountability while using the resources within the district to maintain sustainability.
The why
Increased funding and resources: ADA rates directly impact a district’s financial resources, allowing for greater investment in educational programs and support services. Increased attendance leads to:
  • Higher state and federal funding based on student attendance, which translates into additional resources, such as updated materials, technology and facilities.
  • Enhanced capacity to hire and retain qualified teachers, reducing student-to-teacher ratios and enabling personalized instruction.
  • The ability to expand extracurricular activities, including sports, arts and clubs, which provide students with diverse opportunities for growth and development.
The how
Cultivate a welcoming and inclusive school climate: Creating a school climate that celebrates diversity and ensures inclusivity is crucial. When students feel valued, respected and supported for who they are, their engagement and attendance are likely to improve. Educators can:
  • Implement inclusive policies, such as dress codes and curriculum materials that reflect diverse cultures and backgrounds.
  • Promote cultural competency and awareness through professional development programs and workshops.
  • Foster positive relationships by encouraging student-led clubs, events and celebrations that showcase different cultures and identities.
The why
Strengthened family engagement: Improved ADA rates foster stronger partnerships between schools and families, creating a supportive and involved community. Benefits include:
  • Increased parental involvement in school activities, such as volunteering, attending parent-teacher conferences, and participating in decision-making processes such as parent advisory groups or other affinity groups.
  • Enhanced communication channels between educators and families, allowing for more effective collaboration on student progress and interventions.
  • Creation of parent support networks that offer resources, guidance and encouragement for families facing socio-economic challenges.
The how
Build strong relationships: Strong, positive relationships between students, educators and families foster a sense of belonging and increase student attendance. Educators can:
  • Establish mentoring or advisory programs to provide students with a trusted adult to turn to for guidance and support.
  • Regularly communicate with parents and guardians, including through conferences and home visits, to involve families in supporting attendance goals.
  • Implement restorative practices to address conflicts and discipline issues, focusing on building understanding and empathy rather than punitive measures.
Address socioeconomic barriers: Socioeconomic factors often influence attendance rates. By addressing these barriers, educators can promote equitable access to education. Strategies include:
  • Identifying and supporting students facing economic challenges through targeted interventions, such as providing free or reduced-price meals, school supplies and transportation assistance.
  • Offering before- and after-school programs that provide additional academic support and a safe space for students whose families may face employment or childcare challenges.
  • Collaborating with community organizations to address external factors affecting attendance, such as housing instability or lack of health care.
The why
Academic advancement for students: Improved ADA rates have a direct correlation with positive academic outcomes and long-term success for students. This impact includes:
  • Increased instructional time, allowing students to receive the full benefit of curriculum and instructional opportunities.
  • Improved social-emotional well-being as students develop relationships with peers and engage in a consistent learning routine.
  • Enhanced educational continuity, reducing the negative effects of missed instruction and preventing learning gaps.
  • Higher graduation rates and increased post-secondary opportunities, leading to improved career prospects and economic mobility.
Creating a school climate that celebrates diversity and ensures inclusivity is crucial. When students feel valued, respected and supported for who they are, their engagement and attendance are likely to improve.
The how Implement culturally responsive instruction: Culturally responsive teaching recognizes and respects students’ diverse backgrounds, interests and learning styles. This approach positively impacts student engagement and attendance. Educators can:
  • Incorporate diverse perspectives and examples from different cultures and identities into the curriculum.
  • Encourage student participation in classroom discussions, ensuring all voices are heard and respected.
  • Provide opportunities for students to connect their learning to real-world experiences relevant to their lives and communities.
Monitor and analyze attendance data: Data analysis plays a vital role in identifying attendance patterns, understanding underlying causes and implementing targeted interventions. Educators can:
  • Collect and analyze attendance data regularly to identify trends and patterns across different student groups.
  • Collaborate with data specialists and school administrators to identify early warning signs and develop interventions accordingly.
  • Utilize attendance tracking tools and systems to streamline data collection and facilitate proactive interventions.
Conclusion Improving attendance in K-12 settings requires a comprehensive approach that centers around diversity, equity and inclusion. By creating inclusive environments, building strong relationships, addressing socioeconomic barriers, implementing culturally responsive instruction, and utilizing data-driven strategies, educators can foster an environment where every student feels valued and motivated to attend school regularly. By prioritizing the success of marginalized students, the district creates a thriving educational environment that benefits all students and contributes to the broader success of the community. Remember, empty seats also means lower ADA. Not to minimize the importance of reaching each child, however from a business perspective it just makes dollars and sense. References Gay, G. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (3rd ed.). Teachers College Press. Gooden, M. A., & Premack, A. (2021). Attendance Works: A Review of the Research on Student Attendance Policies and Practices. Attendance Works. National Education Association. (2019). Increasing Attendance Through Family and Community Involvement. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department. Valenzuela, A., & Orfield, G. (2019). The invisible diversity of Latinos in education: Race, ethnicity, and the achievement gap. Harvard Education Press. Balfanz, R., & Byrnes, V. (2019). The importance of being in school: A report on absenteeism in America’s schools. Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools. EdBuild. (2019). Funded but Forgotten: The Broken Economics of Maintenance and Construction in K-12 Schools. Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools. National Education Association. (2018). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016. NEA Research. Dwight Rogers, Ed.D., is the assistant director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Conejo Valley Unified School District.