Absenteeism is negatively associated with student outcomes. It is now a problem faced by many schools in the District of Columbia. Many schools have tried various strategies of engaging families to reduce or prevent absenteeism, including two-way communications about students’ attendance. Recently, a group of researchers from the Office of the City Administrator conducted an experiment to evaluate an application, TeacherText, which is specifically designed for teachers to engage families in two-way communications.
The experiment involved 57 administrators and teachers and 2,229 students randomly divided into treatment and control groups across six public secondary schools in DC. For the ethical consideration that all students and their families should have the opportunity to receive some messages, administrators in both groups could use TeacherText to send messages to students and families. Treatment teachers were also given permission to do so, while control teachers were not. The experiment lasted for one semester (2019-2020).
- After the fall semester, the treatment group had a lower rate of chronic absenteeism (5% lower, not-significant)
- There were no differences between the treatment and control group on in-seat attendance.
While the results showed neither statistically significant reductions in chronic absenteeism nor improvements in in-seat attendance, it is important to note this study examined the impact of giving access to TeacherText to teachers; in both groups, administrators were able to send messages. In addition, the study was much smaller than originally planned, due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, where half of the schools that were intended to begin the intervention in the spring semester transitioned to virtual learning and were therefore not included in the analysis. This study provides some support for TeacherText and warrants further study.
Source (Open Access): Johnson, R., Mei, V., Hatzisamoura, C., & Gan. (2022). Does the messenger matter? A randomized evaluation of the impact of providing teachers with technology for positive family engagement on student attendance. https://osf.io/ujvpg