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Attendance Matters Project

We are happy to announce a partnership with the San Mateo County Office of Education and Harvard University to conduct a study leading to improving attendance in school.

The Attendance Matters Project is an innovative year-long, collaborative research study with San Mateo County School Districts, the San Mateo County Office of Education, The Big Lift, and researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School led by Professor Todd Rogers. The Attendance Matters Project develops a low-cost scalable intervention addressing parental beliefs and expectations around school attendance. Through tailored messages delivered to parents via USPS mail, text message, email, and/or phone calls, the Harvard research team hypothesizes that this strategy could prove to be a powerful, cost-effective and scalable complement to other more resource-intensive attendance interventions.

The San Mateo County Office of Education will work closely with participating districts to share relevant data with the research team at Harvard, and the researchers in turn, will create and deliver helpful messages to parents. Many of our families will soon be receiving survey information and other correspondence regarding the Attendance Matters Project from the San Mateo County Office of Education.

Should you receive information regarding the project, we encourage your participation, as this will strengthen our collective efforts to improve attendance, which will lead our students to greater success.

The study is essentially a means to research the impact of different kinds of messaging to parents to potentially lead to improvements in the area of chronic absenteeism (as opposed to just truancy). The messages may contain phrases such as “Attendance is important for the essential skills your child is learning,” or “Allowing absences now may build habits for chronic absence later.” Those kinds of reminders will lead to subsequent data analysis and the SMCOE/Harvard team will eventually make specific recommendations about what appears to work best. There are two phases to the letters, K-5 will be sent out October through June, and 6-12 will go out January-June. It’s important to note that as this is a research study, some students who have the same amount of absences may or may not receive letters/messages if they are part of, or not part of, a control group. All of the messaging and data collection is being managed by SMCOE.

Please visit the following FAQ link for additional info: