Student Well-Being

How One District Reached Parents to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

By Sarah Tully — June 10, 2016 1 min read

One Michigan school district tried many of the traditional ways to reduce chronic absenteeism in its schools—truancy officers, phone calls, perfect-attendance rewards.

When those didn’t work, Grand Rapids Public Schools tried something that seems to be making a difference. National Public Radio’s All Things Considered produced a May 30 story by Elissa Nadworny that explained how the district used data to reach out to parents. The district found about 7,000 students, out of 17,000, were missing a month or more of school annually.

Using that number as a jumping off point, the district launched a campaign, called Challenge 5, to urge parents to make sure their children have fewer than five absences a year. The motto, “Strive for less than five,” was widely distributed in a video, in addition to data on poster boards in schools and throughout the community.

With that and other efforts, the number of kids who are chronically absent has been reduced by about half.

Find out more about how Grand Rapids reached parents and guardians by reading the NPR story or listening to the audio.

Recent stories about chronic absenteeism:

Contact Sarah Tully at stully@epe.org.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.