Parent Communications

Research: Effective Communication Can Reduce Absenteeism 10 Percent

Research: Effective Communication Can Reduce Absenteeism 10 Percent 

Telling parents that absences matter and offering suggestions for eliminating them reduces absenteeism by as much as 10 percent, according to a new study from researchers at Harvard and Berkeley.

Researchers used three different communications strategies with parents of more than 28,000 high-risk students at the Philadelphia School District.

Parents tend to do a poor job of tracking their children's attendance and understanding how it compares to the average, according to the researchers.

"Since children can be central to parents' own identities, biased total absences beliefs may benefit parents by allowing them to think more positively about themselves," they explained in their report.

But putting the total absences in notices with labels that said "Absences Matter and You Can Help" reduced the number of absences by 10 percent or more. Researchers said the effectiveness of the interventions was consistent across grade levels from K-12, though they noted that 18-year-old high-school seniors are more likely to skip a class in the first place than a student in elementary school.

The researchers said that parents are an effective target for interventions because they are "active investors in their children's human capital," and can use the information to dole out rewards and punishments or for any number of negotiations with their children.

The most effective communications packets the researchers used only cost $6.60 each.

The full study is available at nature.com.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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