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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Policies and Protocols for Truancy Prevention Programs

  • In order to prevent truancy schools must provide high quality engaging academic instruction and assistance, as well as promote healthy behaviors and safe and supportive school climates. Effective truancy prevention programs aim to promote attendance, engage students in learning, help students achieve, intervene early and provide supports where needed. Truancy can be caused by a number of factors; thus, preventing and addressing truancy must be through a comprehensive and proactive approach with multiple coordinated strategies methods.

  • The six sections of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools (BHPS) Framework address the essential components of truancy prevention (leadership, professional development, access to resources and services, academic and non-academic approaches, policies and protocols, and collaboration with families). The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) encourages schools to consider the Framework as guidance for creating and improving policies and procedures related to truancy prevention, and to use the associated Assessment Tool as a structure for reflecting on current practice and goal-setting. The guiding principles of the Framework are also closely aligned with truancy prevention efforts and helped to inform the components noted below.

  • The DESE encourages schools to implement a truancy prevention program that meets these criteria by adopting policies and protocols that incorporate these key elements. The DESE will pursue avenues for providing technical assistance to school districts and will post information about opportunities as they arise on the DESE Dropout Reduction web pages.

Critical Components of Effective Truancy Prevention Efforts:
Key Elements For Meeting Truancy Prevention Program Certification Critera

These components are adapted from the BHPS Framework guiding principles and research and guidance from national organizations, including but not limited to the National Center for School Engagement.

  1. School leaders and members acknowledge that truancy has a major negative impact on student learning.

  2. School leaders and members address truancy in a proactive manner that attends to the variety of causes, which can include: personal, academic, school climate, and family. As such, district-wide attendance policies and supports are created by school officials and community members, and are publicly distributed to students and families.

  3. School leaders and school administrators acknowledge the importance of a positive school climate and classroom environment and dedicate resources accordingly as part of an overall effort to address truancy and reduce barriers to learning.

  4. The school creates a positive and supportive school environment that reduces the prevalence of challenging, dangerous, and disrespectful behaviors. This type of environment also results in better student attendance, attention, motivation, and consequently, better educational outcomes. This environment: a) promotes attendance for all students, b) prevents problems through early intervention supports and services, c) provides intensive intervention for students and crisis intervention for students who are truant, d) includes alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, and e) creates incentive systems that encourage attendance and positive school behavior.

  5. The school curricula provides engaging, meaningful, and relevant opportunities for students to learn content, and helps prepare students for lifelong success in the workplace, in the community, and in personal relationships. This includes instruction in areas such as social problem solving, life skills, social-emotional development, interpersonal communication, self-regulation, and bullying and violence prevention.

  6. The school's truancy prevention programs and services respect ethnic and cultural diversity, language differences. Services are also strength-based, child-centered, and family-driven.

  7. School leaders recognize and make use of the expertise of school staff (including social workers, adjustment counselors, nurses, and school psychologists) to provide support and services to students and families. School leaders and staff also recognize the supportive role that can be played by paraprofessionals and others, including the school secretary, bus drivers, classroom aides, and others.

  8. A school-based team is used to assess the overall needs of the school community as well as to plan, coordinate, and evaluate support programs and services which promote attendance and address truancy. The school-based team also addresses individual student cases of truancy. For efficiency and to minimize redundancy, schools are encouraged to use existing, well functioning teams with coinciding goals for this purpose.

  9. School administrators and staff engage families as essential partners in the school's efforts to prevent truancy and promote attendance. Parental/guardian input helps identify and prioritize the needs of the school community, and their advice, experience, and expertise are sought and utilized regularly, not just when things are not going well. Parents/guardians are welcomed and included to the greatest extent possible in the planning and evaluation of programs and services. When including parents/guardians in truancy prevention and addressing truancy issues, the school is intentional and deliberate in efforts to engage families from all cultures, languages, and socio-economic levels.

  10. School leaders and staff identify ways in which community partners (e.g., law enforcement, faith community, after-school and/or recreation programs, colleges and universities, business partners, and other state/local agencies) can help address services gaps. School staff with appropriate expertise help facilitate access and help coordinate such services and supports by establishing ongoing relationships with community-based service providers, and by providing families with relevant information about community services.

  11. The school and/or school district offers professional development for all school personnel and community-based providers to help them: 1) engage parents/caregivers and students as partners in the students' learning in a manner that is sensitive, respectful, and supportive; 2) identify students at risk for truancy; and 3) help coordinate, support and deliver appropriate services.

  12. The school establishes and uses measurable goals and objectives to target prevention efforts. Ongoing monitoring of these intervention efforts can determine whether truancy prevention efforts are successful and what modifications may be needed to more effectively foster school attendance.

Last Updated: November 7, 2019

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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