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Home visitation practices for reducing chronic absence — March 2020


Could you provide information on best home visitation practices for reducing chronic absence?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on home visitation practices to reduce chronic school absence. The sources included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

Research References

Chang, H., & Romero, M. (2008). Present, engaged, and accounted for: The critical importance of addressing chronic absence in the early grades. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Full text available from

From the abstract: “This report seeks to raise awareness of the critical importance of chronic early absence, synthesize available data on the scope of the challenge, and share emerging insights about how schools and communities can use chronic early absence to identify and address challenges affecting the social, educational and physical well-being of children and their families before problems become intractable. While parents are responsible for getting their children to school every day, schools and communities need to recognize and address the barriers and challenges that may inhibit them from doing so, especially when they are living in poverty. Large numbers of chronically absent students could indicate systemic problems that affect the quality of the educational experience and/or the healthy functioning of the entire community. Activities included secondary analyses of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), analysis of local data on student attendance patterns, a review of relevant literature, and information offered by practitioners, researchers, and funders about promising practices and programs. Appended are: (1) Demographic Characteristics of Participating Localities; and (2) Examples of Promising Programs for Reducing Chronic Early Absence.”

Cook, P. J., Dodge, K. A., Gifford, E. J., & Schulting, A. B. (2019, September). The early truancy prevention program. Teachers take the lead. Durham, NC: Center for Child and Family Policy, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. Full text available from

From the abstract: “The Early Truancy Prevention Program (ETPP) is an intervention that places elementary school teachers at the helm of truancy prevention. A university-based research team developed the ETPP with elementary school teachers, principals, district-level administrators, and social workers. Components include: 1) Teachers visit each student’s home; 2) Teachers receive an iPhone to facilitate home-school communication; 3) Teachers identify students’ barriers to attendance and implement individualized interventions; and 4) Teachers document efforts in the online Attendance Information System (AIS). The ETPP was implemented and refined over a three-year period, with a small randomized controlled trial in the fourth year. This paper describes the need for such an intervention and how the intervention was developed, its components, and its implementation. Feedback from participating teachers is also presented.”

Cook, P. J., Dodge, K. A., Gifford, E. J., & Schulting, A. B. (2017). A new program to prevent primary school absenteeism: Results of a pilot study in five schools. Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 262–270. Full text available from

From the abstract: “Frequent absences in the primary grades are associated with school disengagement, academic failure, and eventual dropout. The Early Truancy Prevention Project (ETPP) was designed to improve attendance of primary grade children by facilitating communication between teachers and parents and giving the teachers the lead role in intervening with students when attendance problems emerge. In 2013–14, the current version of ETPP was implemented in 20 classrooms in five high-poverty public elementary schools, with 21 other classrooms in the same schools serving as controls. Our analysis of attendance data indicated that ETPP significantly reduced the prevalence of absenteeism without excessively burdening teachers. Teachers reported improved communication between parents and teachers and had a positive assessment of the effects of specific program elements.”

Erbstein, N., Olagundoye, S., & Hartzog, C. (2015). Chronic absenteeism in Sacramento City Unified School District: Emerging lessons from four Learning Collaborative sites. Davis, CA: Center for Regional Change, University of California, Davis. Full text available from

From the abstract: “This report documents early efforts to reduce chronic absence among four Learning Collaborative school sites within the SCUSD during the 2014–15 school year. Chronically absent students are those who miss at least 10% of school, meaning they’ve attended school less than 90% of the time. Chronic absence rates reflect all absenteeism, regardless of whether absences are excused, unexcused, or due to suspension. Chronic absenteeism is associated with lower levels of academic learning, high school non-completion, unemployment, incarceration, poor health, and compromised connections to peers, teachers, and schools.

In this report, we briefly describe overall SCUSD patterns of chronic absenteeism and highlight barriers to, and motivators of, school attendance. We then describe Learning Collaborative schools’ preliminary intervention protocols, as well as their site level chronic absenteeism patterns throughout the 2014–15 school year. Finally, we provide lessons learned from the Learning Collaborative through their efforts to begin intentionally addressing chronic absenteeism, and conclude with recommendations for the district office and schools.”

Kerr, J., Price, M., Kotch, J., Willis, S., Fisher, M., & Silva, S. (2012). Does contact by a family nurse practitioner decrease early school absence? Journal of School Nursing, 28(1), 38–46. Abstract available from and full text available for purchase from

From the abstract: “Chronic early school absence (preschool through third grade) is associated with school failure. The presence of school nurses may lead to fewer absences, and nurse practitioners in school-based health centers (SBHCs) can facilitate a healthier population resulting in improved attendance. Efforts to get students back to school are unexplored in nursing literature. This article describes a nursing intervention to decrease early school absence in two elementary schools K–3 (N = 449) and a Head Start program (N = 130). The Head Start Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) contacted families of chronically and excessively absent students by telephone, clinic visit at school, or home visit. The aggregate percentage attendance was evaluated by grades (preschool to third grade), schools (Head Start, Elementary Schools 1 and 2), and grades and schools and compared with publicly available school district aggregate data. There were statistically significant increases in attendance from Year 1 to Year 2 at p less than 0.05 at the elementary level but not at the Head Start level. Student demographics, types of contacts, absence reasons (including sick child), and medical diagnoses are described.”

Lara, J., Noble, K., Pelika, S., & Coons, A. (2018). Chronic absenteeism (NEA Research Brief, NBI, No. 57). Washington, DC: National Education Association. Full text available from

From the abstract: “Educators and policymakers have become increasingly concerned about the issue of student absenteeism in general and, in particular, chronic absenteeism. This is because chronic absenteeism can have lasting effects on students’ economic and social development. Children who are chronically absent have lower levels of school readiness upon entering kindergarten, are less likely to read at grade level by the third grade, show lower levels of social engagement, are more likely to drop of school, and are less likely to graduate from high school or attend college. All of these negative outcomes limit the long-term success of students in school and into adulthood. Specifically, dropping out of high school not only limits a person’s long-term earning potential and career advancement, but can also significantly reduce potential tax revenues. From a systems perspective, chronic absenteeism disrupts the effective delivery of instruction, widens the achievement gap, and reduces state funding to schools. Although absenteeism is an old problem, there is now a new impetus for addressing it. The newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) law requires the reporting of chronic absenteeism at school and district levels, and it allows the use of federal funds for preventive measures and training to reduce chronic absence. In addition, chronic absenteeism can be included as a school-quality indicator in state-level ESSA accountability systems. States will now have to establish data systems for tracking student absenteeism and report the information collected. This Research Brief goes beyond previous National Education Association (NEA) work by identifying and highlighting best practices aimed at reducing the problem of chronic absenteeism.”

Sheldon, S. B., & Epstein, J. L. (2004). Getting students to school: Using family and community involvement to reduce chronic absenteeism. School Community Journal, 14(2), 39–56. Full text available from

From the abstract: “Students who are chronically absent are more likely than other students to drop out of school. Many schools have goals to reduce student truancy and to help chronically absent students attend school regularly. Few studies, however, have focused on whether or how family and community involvement help reduce rates of chronic absenteeism. In this longitudinal study, data were collected from 39 schools on rates of chronic absenteeism and on specific family and community involvement activities that were implemented to reduce this serious problem for student learning. Results indicate that school, family, and community partnership practices can significantly decrease chronic absenteeism, even after school level and prior rates of absenteeism are taken into account. In particular, communicating with families about attendance, celebrating good attendance with students and families, and connecting chronically absent students with community mentors measurably reduced students’ chronic absenteeism from one year to the next. Also, schools that conducted a greater total number of attendance-focused activities were more likely to decrease the percentage of students who missed twenty or more days of school each year.”

REL West note: This study is more than 15 years old. Considering its relevance to the request, we included it here for your information.

Sheldon, S., & Jung, S. B. (2018). Student outcomes and parent teacher home visits. Baltimore, MD: Center on School, Family & Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University. Full text available from

From the abstract: “It might not always be obvious that simply strengthening relationships among families and schools would be associated with concrete academic and social-emotional outcomes for students, but it is. This report details the results of rigorous research conducted by Johns Hopkins University that show a strong connection between the PTHV model of relational home visits and decreases in chronic absence rates and increases in English Language Arts proficiency among students. Moreover, these outcomes were observed for individual students who received a home visit as well as for students who attended a school that systemically implemented home visits, whether the student had a home visit or not. Relational home visits help build a school culture that supports and engages students, families, and educators to support student success.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

Attendance Works –

From the website: “Established in 2010, Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success starting with school entry. Our goal is to ensure that every district in the country not only tracks chronic absence data beginning in kindergarten or ideally earlier, but also partners with families and community agencies to intervene when attendance is a problem for children or particular schools.”

REL West note: Attendance Works has one resource relevant to this request:

Gandy, C., & Maxfield, J. (2007). Increasing school attendance for K–8 students: A review of research examining the effectiveness of truancy prevention programs. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Full text available from

New Jersey Department of Education –

From the website: “The New Jersey Department of Education supports schools, educators and districts to ensure all of New Jersey’s 1.4 million students have equitable access to high quality education and achieve academic excellence.”

REL West note: The New Jersey Department of Education has one resource relevant to this request:

State of New Jersey Department of Education. (2018). Gettting students to school: Strategies for improving attendance and chronic absenteeism. Trenton, NJ: Author. Full text available from


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used:

[(“home visits” OR “home visitation”) AND  (“chronic absence” OR “chronic absenteeism”)]

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.8 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.