By Nick Stellitano, Applied Data Strategist & Ellen Fugate, Applied Data Manager
Have you ever taken the time to read your district’s attendance letter? You know, those letters that get sent home alerting families of various statutes and laws indicating that their child is at risk of being truant. In many instances, these letters are dry and hard to read, and they fail to inspire action. Middletown High School and Maloney High School want to change that! Based on research conducted by Harvard University Professor Todd Rogers, Middletown and Maloney educators are ensuring their attendance letters are more accessible and personalized.
To be on-track to promote and graduate, it is essential for students to attend school every day. Professor Rogers, who presented his research at the 2019 CT State Absenteeism Symposium, found that sending personalized and simplified attendance letters reduced chronic absenteeism by 10% or more. After hearing Professor Rogers present, Middletown and Maloney educators were excited to put this promising research into action.
So what did they do? First, each school simplified the message and language in their attendance letters, such that the text was clearer and simpler. Second, letters were personalized so that each letter referenced the student by name and indicated the student’s actual number of absences. Third, each letter provided the average number of days absent for a typical student as a point of comparison. Rogers’ research shows these three simple adjustments help better inform parents who might otherwise underestimate how many times their students have been absent, both in total and relative to other students. Both Maloney and Middletown educators created their letters in partnership with RISE by using Google Docs and Mail Merge with data pulled from PowerSchool.
Links to Letter Templates
Though it is still too early to tell if the letters are having an immediate impact, these letters are part of a broader strategy to improve the culture of attendance at Maloney and Middletown. And we will be closely looking at the data to better understand how these efforts can help reduce chronic absenteeism across both schools. If you are interested in learning more information about sending similar letters out to your Grade 9 students, please reach out to your RISE school support team.