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Every Day Counts Summit: Empowering Student Attendance and Engagement

 

Yesterday, the SSWAA Associate Executive Director, Capella Hauer, attended the Every Day Counts Summit on Increasing Student Attendance and Engagement hosted by the Biden Administration. This pivotal event in the educational landscape featured bipartisan state and local education leaders who are tackling absenteeism head-on using evidence-based approaches. Speakers included esteemed educators, policymakers, students, and advocates.

 


AED Capella Hauer with Attendance Works Founder and ED Hedy Chang


Understanding the Challenge

 

The foundation of the summit was rooted in acknowledging the complex challenges that hinder optimal student attendance and engagement. From socio-economic disparities to health-related issues and societal pressures, students face multifaceted barriers that impact their educational journey. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, absenteeism can account for up to 27% and 45% of the post-pandemic test score declines in math and reading, respectively. A new brief released on May 15th shows that some districts are improving greatly and others much less. However, some American schools and school systems demonstrating significant progress based on proven strategies. Many of these strategies were highlighted in yesterday’s Summit.

 

Key Takeaways

 

Among the wealth of insights shared at the summit, several key takeaways emerged:

 

Data-Driven Solutions: Leveraging data analytics and technology emerged as a powerful tool in identifying at-risk students and tailoring interventions to meet their needs effectively. Some states and districts shared dashboards created to help target at-risk students. Others used data to help illuminate and educate students and families on how many absences they had accumulated.

 

Community Collaboration: The importance of community partnerships was underscored, emphasizing the collective responsibility of schools, families, social services, and local organizations in supporting students' holistic well-being. Engaging in partnerships, including local pediatricians, housing supports, and child care centers can help schools become community-focused and holistically meet the basic needs of students which may hinder attendance.

 

Mental Health Awareness: A significant focus was placed on promoting mental health awareness and integrating mental health support services within the educational framework to address the emotional and social challenges students face. Conducting home visits was also discussed, and emphasized these should be solution-focused and non-punitive. 

 


Secretary Cardona shares the Administration's plan to support schools, districts and states


Federal Support

 

As the Every Day Counts Summit highlighted, enhancing student attendance and engagement requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders. By leveraging data-driven strategies, fostering community collaboration, prioritizing mental health, and recognizing the pivotal role of school social workers, we can create inclusive, supportive environments where every student can flourish. In addition, the Biden Administration announced at the Every Day Counts Summit the following new actions to assist in student attendance and support states, districts and schools:

  • Targeting competitive federal grant programs to activities intended to increase student attendance and engagement.

  • Publishing new resources and tools on the effective use of data to identify students who are chronically absent and intervene early.

  • Releasing a new resource for increasing student attendance, engagement, and success through career-connected learning, with examples and connections that schools can use to increase career pathways. Issuing a new resource on addressing transportation needs to improve school attendance.

  • The Department of Education provided guidance to states on how to use American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth funds for transportation to and from schools for students experiencing homelessness.

  • To support and sustain state and local investments in increasing student attendance and engagement, the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget proposal includes $8 billion in mandatory funding for Academic Acceleration and Achievement Grants to help close opportunity and achievement gaps, including supporting evidence-based strategies to increase student attendance and engagement.


The insights and commitments forged at this summit serve as catalysts for transformative change in education, paving the way for a future where every student's potential is realized.

 

The Importance of School Social Workers

 

One speaker at the event, a student from New York, highlighted the critical role of his School Social Worker, and credited his attendance and eventual graduation to their support and guidance. School social workers play a multifaceted and indispensable role in promoting student attendance and engagement. While School Social Workers were mentioned several times throughout the Summit by students, superintendents, and even Secretary Cardona, we know as practitioners the critical role we play in student attendance and achievement. Many of the strategies and tools shared are key areas in which School Social Workers have advanced knowledge and skills in.


School social workers are adept at identifying underlying issues contributing to absenteeism and disengagement. Through assessments and targeted interventions, we address academic, social, and emotional barriers that impede student success. We serve as bridges between schools, families, and communities. By fostering open communication and collaboration, we create a supportive ecosystem that nurtures students' educational growth. School social workers advocate for equitable access to resources and opportunities, ensuring that every student has the support needed to thrive academically and personally. In times of crisis or trauma, we provide vital support, offering counseling, crisis intervention, and connecting students and families with external resources for comprehensive care.


All of the unique skills above directly impact rates of attendance. We know we have an important role to play… but does everyone else know that?

 

What’s Next?

I am thrilled the current Administration is proposing additional funding as well as key tools to assist in addressing chronic absenteeism. At the same time, we know that unfortunately, even though we are critical professionals to have on campuses, we are sometimes the first to be let go. Each and every one of us must continue to advocate for our profession so we may do our part in addressing chronic absenteeism. I strongly encourage you to continue having conversations with your administration, share data regarding your impact at board meetings and speak to your local and state representatives about your work. Additionally, consider sharing your knowledge and what has worked for your work on attendance by submitting a proposal to speak at our conference. And finally, stay involved with SSWAA. We will continue to push out resources for you. We see you, and we appreciate you.

 


 

For the full statement from the White House including key links, please click here.


For FREE Advocacy tools from SSWAA, click here.


For resources from Attendance Works, click here.




Capella Hauer, MSW, NCSSW

(she/her/hers)

Capella is the Associate Executive Director for the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA). She graduated from New Mexico Highlands University in 2015 with her Master’s in Clinical Social Work and began working as a School Social Worker. Capella thrived with Elementary-aged youth, particularly in group settings. Capella was Vice President of the School Social Work Association of Arizona, obtained her certificate in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, and laid the foundation for trauma-informed practice within her district. In her free time, she started a non-profit bakery in her home with all the profit going back to local non-profits in her community and volunteered as a support group facilitator at a youth grief center. With almost a decade of practice behind her, Capella is a strong advocate for youth mental health, and the growth of the School Social Work profession who aid in student health, safety, and success.

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