Districts Pivot Their Strategies to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism During Distance Learning

July 29, 2020


On the other side of the country, another effort, housed at Harvard University, is also helping districts tackle chronic absenteeism. Started in 2015, the Proving Ground program helps school districts leverage data to design, plan, implement and test interventions to improve learning outcomes. The program has 59 school district partners, most of them in New York and Ohio.

One of its first successful intervention programs involved weekly postcards sent home to families of students in early grades as absences occurred. The program lasted over the course of 13 weeks during the 2018-2019 school year and included 5,602 students from two unnamed districts. Each card contained a handwritten message including a count of cumulative days missed, information on the lessons missed in class that day, and a guide to help parents understand how the absences impacted their child’s academic progress. Researchers found that this approach reduced student absences by an estimated 7.9 percent.


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