How To Support Truant Students

support truant students

How Can You Support Truant Students?

by TeachThought Staff

No matter how many opportunities there are for innovation in education, in any form this much is true: School can’t work if students don’t attend (virtual or face-to-face).

Student attendance can be an issue at any grade level, whether because of health issues, family circumstances, living situation, or some other factor. As students age, truancy factors can change. The reason for the attendance problem has everything to do with both how you address it in hopes of solving it, and how you mitigate the impact of non-attendance in the meantime.

For example, a high-achieving 3rd grader that misses extended time because of an illness would require a completely different approach than a 10th grader who can barely read and thinks school is a waste of time.

So what can you do to help students in both cases–or dozens of others, each with their own subtle distinctions that make them a challenge? A personalized approach that treats every case differently is likely required; standardized policies allow unique cases to fall through the cracks. This, however, is nearly impossible for an individual teacher acting alone. But with a variety of approaches that help create a system of support for that child, you just might be able to make it work.

Below are 15 such approaches, and as implied above, not all will work for every student. The idea is to brainstorm possibilities, collaborate with others, and do the best you can.

Because that’s all you can do.

How To Support Students That Never Come To School

1. Communicate & collaborate

After communication–where you find out what’s happening and speak to the family to do your best to clarify what’s happening (or not happening) that’s impacting the student’s attendance, collaboration is next: Working with parents, extended family, other teachers in your building, administrators, or even relevant local resources and agencies like the YMCA, city organizations, and more.

2. ‘If nothing else’ lesson & unit design

This approach reconfigures the curriculum, lessons, and other learning experiences with the understanding that the student will not be mastering all content, exposed to every lesson, or otherwise ‘learn everything.’

It doesn’t seek to remove content or skills from the student’s planned learning, but rather take the reverse approach: If this student learns nothing else this year, what do we want to make sure they come away from the school year with–in terms of concepts, understandings, skills, and competencies?

See also Applying The 40/40/40 Rule In Your Classroom.

3. Blended learning

This approach requires that the student come to school sometimes, but assuming they do, you plan from the beginning with a hybrid model in mind knowing that the learning will be split between eLearning and face-to-face instruction.

See 6 Types Of Blended Learning.

4. Backward grading

This is an idea we love at TeachThought–at least on paper. You can read about backward grading, but the idea is additive points where students don’t lose points and letter grades for what they miss, but rather receive credit for what they don’t miss.

5. Flipped Learning

A form of blended learning, a flipped classroom can be a good fit for students that don’t miss school often. (It wouldn’t work for students absent more often because the core tenet of the flipped classroom–for students to be exposed to new content at home and practice at school with guidance after–would be missing the critical ‘guided practice’ piece.)

See The Definition Of The Flipped Classroom.

6. Gamified learning

Similar to backward grading and possible to work in concert with the ‘If nothing else…’ prioritization of content, gamification allows for students to be given points and badges for otherwise minor tasks, specific challenges to complete, levels to finish before moving on (think Mastery Learning), and so on.

You can also read more about what gamification in the classroom allows.

7. Pass/Fail grading

If a student doesn’t participate in the ‘system’ of learning as it was designed, most of the pieces will need to be re-designed in response, and grading is no different. Like backward grading, pass/fail can be a student-friendly alternative to a report card full of Ds and Fs. It simplifies achievement–you either ‘made it,’ or you didn’t.

8. Home visits

This is critical for the first approach, ‘Communicate & Collaborate.’ You may have one version in your head as to why the student doesn’t come to school, and see a completely different version when you visit the student at home. (And this assumes that the student has a home–homelessness can, obviously, be a big part of why they aren’t showing up at school, as can other challenging living circumstances.)

This can be virtual if necessary but face-to-face can be more powerful in some circumstances (depending on the reason for truancy).

9. Learning playlists 

This approach sees students receiving a ‘playlist’ of activities that they can self-direct themselves through. Students can either be asked to complete the list (assuming they can), or allowed to pick and choose (sounds iffy, but they’re not going to learn everything; learning playlists can be designed with the ‘If nothing else…’ approach in mind).

10. Standards-Based Grading

This can be coupled with other approaches to ensure that the student is graded (pass/fail, for example) based entirely on their mastery of an academic standard rather than on participation in class, completed assignments, and so on.

11. Project-Based Learning

Projects are more tolerant of hit-and-miss/out-of-sequence learning than traditional units that depend on and ultimately assess and very specific set of standards.

You can check out TeachThought Project-Based Learning content for resources, ideas, and more.

12. Great books!

Imagine a student who won’t be able to participate in blended learning, complete learning playlists, or even attend often enough for a modified grading system to work. What if the only thing they did was read life-changing and extraordinary books, and that’s it?

Could be worse, right?

13. Mastery learning

Like ‘Standards-based grading’ and overlapping with Gamification, Mastery Learning focuses on the mastery of skills and concepts, allowing students to work at whatever pace and sequence has its benefits, whether they need longer to demonstrate mastery, an alternative assessment form, or fly through the content, moving faster than they might have in a traditional classroom.

You can read a formal definition of Mastery Learning.

14. Competency-Based Learning

Like Mastery Learning, Competency-Based Learning focuses on mastery while further narrowing learning to specific and demonstratable competencies.

15. Empowered role in the classroom

For the student who doesn’t attend because of ‘motivation,’ creating a significant and authentic need for them to be in the classroom beyond their own education can be motivating.

How To Support Students That Never Come To School