Truancy and Dropout: Description and Topics

What are best practices for improving school attendance and high school graduation? How can you make a difference for young people in your community who are drifting away from school and academic success?

The National Center for School Engagement’s web-based course in truancy reduction will help you help them.

In nine units you will learn how to nip unexcused absence in the bud, identify the causes of attendance problems , and re-engage, rather than further alienate vulnerable children and their families. You will learn how other communities are successfully tackling their attendance and dropout problems , receive guidance in researching your state laws and regulations and begin thinking about ways to evaluate your efforts.

Each unit in this user-friendly course is supplemented by links to outside reading materials, websites and video clips that illustrate the main concepts taught in the unit. A Community Forum allows you to share ideas with other course-takers.

Below are the units and topics in the course.


Unit 1: Why School Attendance Matters So Much

  • What’s the big deal?
  • Poor attendance and high school dropout
  • Kids who skip school may have other problems, too.
  • A high school degree is essential
  • Helping kids understand why school matters
  • School attendance is the law

What you will learn

  • Truancy is a big problem with serious consequences
  • There is a relationship between skipping school and other problem behaviors
  • Middle school attendance problems are good predictors of high school dropout
  • It is vital to have a high school degree
  • You can help teach kids how important a high school degree is
  • Attending school is the law

Unit 2: AAA Schools: The NCSE Approach

  • The three As of school engagement
  • Characteristics of Triple A Schools
  • Strategies for increasing school engagement
  • The NCSE approach to reducing truancy

What you will learn

  • Attendance, Attachment and Achievement are the three As of student engagement
  • The combination of attendance and attachment leads to achievement
  • Triple A Schools create environments inside and outside the classroom that encourage attendance, attachment and achievement for all students.
  • The basics of building a school engagement plan for my students.

Unit 3: Causes of Truancy

  • Overview
  • Community-related causes of truancy
  • Family-related causes of truancy
  • Individual-related causes of truancy
  • School-related causes of truancy
  • What kids say

What you will learn

  • How researchers categorize causes of truancy
  • How wide the range of possible causes is
  • How the problems students face can operate to put a wedge between the student, school and academic success
  • How to address a number of these causes
  • How deeply young people regret their academic failures

Unit 4: Patterns of Absence: What to look for

  • Tardiness
  • Sudden, new attendance problems
  • Sporadic attendance problems
  • Class cutting
  • The special problem of elementary school absence
  • Other factors
  • Identifying students with attendance problems

What you will learn

  • What attendance patterns to look for
  • The best way to scan to for problems
  • How the causes of school absence identified in Unit 3 result in different patterns of absence
  • How to address patterns of absence once they are identified

Unit 5: Helpful Approaches

  • What characteristics do effective programs share?
  • Model program examples
  • Where can you learn about other programs?

What you will learn

  • Characteristics of effective truancy reduction programs
  • Specifics of several effective programs
  • Where to learn about additional programs

Unit 6: Tips for Effective Case Management

  • Defining your role as case manager
  • Building relationships
  • Relationships with parents and guardians
  • Relationships with older students
  • Creating an individualized plan
  • Managing your own expectations

What you will learn

  • The role of the case manager
  • How to approach parents and guardians
  • How to approach older children with attendance problems
  • Reactions to expect from parents and older children
  • Walking the line between friend and disciplinarian
  • Managing your own expectations

Unit 7: Compulsory School Attendance Law

  • What is compulsory school attendance law?
  • Finding the compulsory attendance law in your state
  • Consequences of breaking the law

What you will learn

  • What the term “compulsory attendance law” means
  • What your state’s law says
  • Some possible consequences for violating the law
  • Typical consequences for violating the law are in your area

Unit 8: Keeping Track

  • The importance of evaluation
  • Process versus outcome evaluations
  • What is a longitudinal study?
  • Basic ways to collect data
  • Where can I learn more?

What you will learn

  • Why you should evaluate your program
  • What a process evaluation can teach you
  • When you are ready for an outcome evaluation
  • Longitudinal analyses compare the “before” and “after” pictures of student attendance
  • To think about using surveys, interviews, focus groups and records review to collect both quantitative and qualitative information about your program.
  • Where to get more information about program evaluation.

Unit 9: Summary and review

  • Why excellent school attendance is so important
  • NCSE’s three As of school engagement
  • Causes of truancy
  • How to identify students who may need help
  • Best practices and effective strategies used in successful programs
  • The role of the case manager
  • Your state law and school policies
  • Data with which to evaluate your success
  • Your culminating project

What you will review

  • Why excellent school attendance is so important
  • NCSE’s three As of school engagement
  • Causes of truancy
  • How to identify students who may need help
  • Best practices and effective strategies used in successful programs
  • The role of the case manager
  • Your state law and school policies
  • What data to collect so that you can evaluate your success