5 Key School Communications Tips for At-Risk Students
When we think about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) district goals, school-home communications need to be part of the equation.
First, a quick review of terms:
- Diversity means the range of differences among people (think: race, ethnicity, national origin, physical abilities, etc.)
- Equity means the fair distribution of resources so that each person has what they need to succeed (this is different from equality, where everyone gets the same amount of resources.)
- Inclusion means creating a culture where everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging.
In the classroom, equitable practices include differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, and formative assessment.
DEI + School Communications + Chronic Absenteeism
Since the onset of the pandemic, absenteeism has risen by more than 25%, according to AttendanceWorks. At-risk students – meaning, students of color, students living in poverty, and students with disabilities – have been disproportionately affected. Often, for excused absences, especially in the elementary years. Asthma, diabetes, food insecurity, lack of a safe route to school are all issues that keep kids home. But early chronic absenteeism is predictive of a higher dropout rate and higher likelihood of entering the criminal justice system.
And here’s the rub. Most districts, for funding purposes, are counting how many students attend school each day, not which students. Which means the students who most need to be at school are the ones most often absent from it.
And we might not even notice, at a district or even building level.
Enter School Communications.
School communications can go a long way towards creating the sense of belongingness – or, school connectedness – crucial to an inclusive school community. But only if you take DEI into consideration. Here are 3 steps you can take:
- Send home weekly digital, translatable classroom/homeroom updates that include schedule, lunch, events, assignments, and attendance shoutouts. You can read more about this here.
- Using your SchoolStatus analytics, investigate your data for patterns of engagement. Measure those patterns against attendance data. When they meet up – a disengaged family & a chronically absent student – work with the counselor to schedule a 1:1 conversation with the family and, together with the home adults, develop an attendance plan.
- Adopt an automated attendance management system, like this one, to more easily reach families in their preferred language and boost overall attendance and achievement.
Studies show the more home adults hear from teachers, the more successful their children are in school – from behavior to attendance to achievement. So, it’s really a no-brainer.
Getting Your Faculty On Board.
Building leaders must model the kinds of communications practices that foster school-connectedness. Here are two easy suggestions:
- Send weekly updates to faculty and staff with DEI goals and resources
- Send home weekly updates from the principal to set the tone for communications.
Coaches should also get in on this – their work needs to involve coaching teachers in the specific strategies needed to work successfully with at-risk students.
If you’d like to learn more about DEI in school communications, download our eBook. You’ll find more information about and tips for improving chronic absenteeism, parent engagement, and student achievement.