One element of ensuring attendance is to provide encouragement and support for students and families who may have difficulty making a summer program a priority.
Reminder phone calls
- Complete calls in the weeks leading up to the program to answer questions and communicate important program dates.
Identify students at high-risk for poor attendance
- Using school-year attendance data, identify children at high-risk for poor attendance. Reach out to these parents using unique messaging about the importance of program attendance and the supports available (example: transportation).
- Have a summer staff member make a personal connection to both the parent and child.
- A confirmation packet should be sent to each student that successfully registers for the summer program. The packet should contain a program calendar, student behavior expectations, transportation options, and an incentive.
- A registration confirmation incentive can include a water bottle, t-shirt or program magnet. Check out this unique magnet that the YMCA of Greater Boston sent to students who signed up for their summer program.
- Develop an attendance contract for parents/guardians to review with their child to reinforce the importance and value of attending daily. Have parents/guardians and students sign the contract as part of the registration process.
- Check out an example attendance contract from MathPOWER, based at Northeastern University, which runs a 5-week summer learning program on campus.
- Or check out this attendance contract from Achieve, a 6-week summer learning program that requires parents and students to sign the contract.
“Welcome” phone call during Week 1 to parents/guardians highlighting summer ahead
- This folder is sent home every night to distribute general information to families (progress reports, field trip information, flyers, newsletter).
- Each folder is labeled with child’s name.
- Stress importance of the folder early in the program to encourage the habit of checking the folder each night, and bringing it back to the program each morning.
“Phone call availability” form
- This form allows families to note a time that is convenient for them to receive a phone call from the program. This form should be sent home during the first program week. Check out a sample here.
- This strategy is best coupled with “Good News Phone Calls” – in which programs intentionally make phone calls home to relay positive updates to parents and guardians.
- Recap of what children did that week, emphasizing both skill gains and fun.
- Include photographs of students at program and tips for parents on how to make the morning routine easier.
- Check out a weekly newsletter template here or see YMCA of Greater Boston’s example here.
- Offer an attendance “hotline” to provide advice and guidance to parents struggling to enforce attendance.
- Informal check-ins with parents during drop-off or pick-up time to address concerns, reinforce daily attendance expectation.
Parent events – Engage parents with your program site by offering weekly, or end of the program events. Potential events include:
- Breakfast event with speaker
- Enrichment afternoon where parents participate in activities with their children
- ”Walking Museums” Snapshot from the Field (best practice from a Boston-area provider): “During the summer, we had opportunities for parents, siblings, and friends of the students to enjoy displays of summer students’ work. We created a “Walking Museum” which changed bi-weekly, which displayed work from all of the students’ classes.”
Incentives for parents
- Provide incentives for parents whose children attend regularly.
- Snapshot from the Field: “At the end of the program, we provided parents the opportunity to participate in a raffle for three Stop & Shop gift certificates if their child had consistently great attendance.”
Congratulatory attendance calls
- At the end of each week, call the parents of children who had perfect weekly attendance.
- If available, an automated calling system – such as One Call or ConnectEd – is useful in implementing this strategy.
The best practices below have emerged from local and national summer programming researchers, including NIOST, RAND Corporation, and Crosby Marketing.
Keeping communication around summer learning focused on fun AND learning can emphasize the value of participating for students and families: The Summer Learning Program only lasts a bit more than a month, so every day counts. It’s fun, and can help your child get ready to succeed next year – but only if your son or daughter attends regularly.