With Positive School Climate Attendance Soars - Learn Why

The Climate Connection: How School Atmosphere Influences Student Attendance

Explore the connection between school climate and attendance in our recent blog post.

By Megan Okrand, contributing writer

In my final year of teaching, the importance of school climate and attendance hit me like a ton of bricks. Significant changes were underway, creating a palpable anxiety and tension in the air as our school navigated major changes. It didn’t take long for the students to pick up on it. They sensed something was off, and as the unease rose, so did the number of absentees.

It was a wake-up call to the power of school climate. A welcoming environment, filled with laughter, encouragement, and safety, can make all the difference in attendance. Positive school climate isn’t just about warm fuzzies and high-fives; it means creating a space where students feel safe, supported, and eager to learn. 

Group of diverse young students standing together in a classroom.

When students feel valued and welcomed, they’re more likely to show up consistently. Research backs it up: A positive school climate leads to fewer absent days. It’s a reminder that the atmosphere we create in schools impacts every aspect of student life—from academic performance to school absenteeism.

A school that exudes kindness and respect, where every student feels secure and appreciated, not only makes students eager to attend. Effective school climate initiatives, especially those that prevent bullying and promote inclusivity, are key. These programs don’t just reduce absenteeism; they enhance the overall school experience, fostering an environment where students are consistently present and actively engaged in their education.

When it comes to school climate, attendance is a key indicator. This connection underscores the need for thoughtful school policies that prioritize student well-being and engagement.

Creating a foundation for success: Programs for improved school attendance

Crafting a positive school climate involves the entire school community. It’s all about making sure there are programs and strategies that transform schools into vibrant, welcoming spaces that students are eager to be a part of.

These initiatives foster positive school experiences and make each day a chance for students to connect, learn, and thrive in a welcoming environment. This is a fantastic opportunity for schools to do more than just teach; it’s a chance for schools to step up and create an atmosphere that nurtures both brains and hearts. 

And the payoff? Well, it’s huge. Not only do academic scores soar, but students also feel like they’re part of something special—a community where everyone is excited to learn and grow together.

Promoting open communication

Open communication is the foundation upon which trust, understanding, and collaboration are built. When parents, students, teachers, and staff feel empowered to voice their thoughts and concerns, it fosters a sense of belonging and investment in the school’s success.

Open communication with caregivers

Parents who feel informed and valued become active partners in their child’s education. They’re invested, engaged, and ready to cheer on their students’ success. So, how do we unlock this powerful dynamic? By fostering open communication—a two-way street where information flows freely. 

  • Regular open forums: Schools can hold regular meetings or forums (in person and online) where parents can come together with school administrators and teachers to share feedback, ideas, and concerns. These forums provide a platform for open dialogue and collaboration.
  • Suggestion boxes: Sometimes, parents might have a brilliant idea or a pressing concern but hesitate to speak up. Suggestion boxes provide a space for anonymous input, which encourages honest feedback and contributes to a more accurate assessment of school climate.
  • ParentPowered’s Communication Guide: This trusty handbook from ParentPowered is filled with tips and tricks for crafting effective communication between schools and parents. It helps navigate the sometimes murky waters of parent-school communication, enhancing perceptions of school climate and ultimately boosting school satisfaction.

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Open communication with students, teachers, and staff

Students are perceptive and have a lot to say, but sometimes traditional classroom settings don’t provide an open forum for their voices. A school environment where open communication thrives between students, teachers, and staff is key to unlocking a vibrant and inclusive learning community. When everyone feels heard and valued, a powerful sense of belonging and collaborative spirit takes root.

  • Regular meetings: Imagine a space where students, teachers, and staff gather regularly to share ideas, discuss challenges, and celebrate successes. These meetings foster a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, enriching the character of school life and strengthening school climate. This can also take the form of establishing a student-led school climate committee, giving students more ownership! 
  • Feedback: Feedback helps ideas flourish. Schools can encourage a culture where giving and receiving feedback is the norm, nurturing a sense of empowerment and accountability within the school community.
  • School climate surveys: Want to take the pulse of a school’s atmosphere? School climate surveys provide valuable insights and measures of school conditions, offering a snapshot of the collective attitudes and perceptions within the school community. 
  • Transparency: Being transparent about school policies, decisions, and initiatives can  keep students, teachers, and staff informed, which in turn builds their trust when these aspects change or evolve.

Encouraging parent involvement

Open communication with parents is just the first brick in the wall of strong parent involvement. Research consistently shows a connection between family engagement and positive student outcomes. When caregivers become active partners in their child’s education, it creates a powerful community that bridges the gap between home and school, helping students feel supported from every angle.

Now that’s something to write home about! 

Here are a few strategies to increase parent involvement.

Two-way communication practices

Communication is fundamental to any relationship including family-school partnerships. Finding accessible, easy methods to encourage information to flow from home to school (as often as the opposite occurs) sets up families and educators for greater collaboration.

Teachers can try including a notepad in students’ take-home folders for families to send comments or questions back to the classroom. Administrators can utilize family feedback surveys to source input directly from caregivers about specific initiatives, their unique needs beyond school, and more. Just be sure to collect feedback from a diverse group of parents and family members—not just the ones already active and communicating regularly with educators!

Parent education

Educators can offer workshops or resources on topics relevant to parenting and education. Topics could include strategies for supporting academic success at home, navigating the school system, or understanding developmental milestones. By empowering parents with knowledge and resources, they can become more effective partners in their child’s education journey.

Family engagement events

Consider organizing family-friendly events that bring parents, students, and school staff together in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Whether it’s a family picnic, game night, or cultural celebration, these events provide opportunities for families to connect with each other and with the school community. Better still, virtual opportunities or events at local community spaces where families already gather ensure those who face barriers to in-person attendance still have opportunities to connect with educators.

Digital family engagement programs

Modern technology can deliver a comprehensive whole child curriculum directly to families via text messages, the most universally-available mode of communication. ParentPowered’s curriculum ensures that caregivers have access to valuable resources and information to support their children’s learning and development, fostering meaningful parent engagement.

Example week of Persistence messages for teens

Implementing conflict resolution programs

Every school grapples with unresolved conflicts, ranging from peer disputes and bullying behavior to tensions between teachers and students. If left unaddressed, these conflicts can escalate and create a negative atmosphere that hinders student achievement, undermines building conditions for learning, and even leads to chronic absenteeism. Implementing effective conflict resolution programs is crucial for fostering a harmonious environment conducive to academic success.

Here are some suggestions for effective conflict resolution programs:

  • Peer programs: Peer mediation and support groups empower students to resolve conflicts and offer mutual support. These initiatives also foster responsibility, camaraderie, and a positive school climate while promoting regular attendance.
  • Restorative justice & conflict resolution: Consider integrating practices and workshops focused on repairing harm, restoring relationships, and teaching communication skills like active listening and problem-solving strategies to foster empathy, growth, and a culture of respect among staff and students.
  • Bullying prevention programs: These conflict resolution components fit into behavioral interventions and bullying prevention programs. By addressing underlying conflicts and promoting empathy and inclusivity, schools create a safer and more supportive environment for all students.
  • Inclusive decision-making: Try involving students in decision-making processes related to aspects of school climate, such as school rules, policies, and initiatives. When students feel heard and valued, they are more likely to engage positively with their peers and contribute to a harmonious school environment.

Offering diverse extracurricular activities

Extracurriculars play a crucial role in fostering a vibrant and inclusive school community. They provide students with opportunities to explore their interests, express themselves, and connect with peers who share similar passions. By offering diverse extracurricular options, schools can build upon the many backgrounds and talents of their student body, promoting a sense of belonging and inclusivity that impacts school attendance.

Here are a few examples of extracurricular programs for middle and high school that can contribute to a culturally diverse and inclusive school environment:

  • Affinity groups: These groups provide a safe space for students from specific cultural or ethnic backgrounds to come together, share experiences, and celebrate their heritage.
  • Arts programs: Access to arts education is essential for fostering creativity, self-expression, and cultural appreciation. Schools can offer diverse arts programs such as dance, music, theater, and visual arts to accommodate students with varying interests and talents.
  • Sports clubs: Sports clubs not only promote physical fitness and teamwork but also provide opportunities for students to engage with peers from diverse backgrounds. 
  • Debate teams: Debate teams promote critical thinking, communication skills, and civic engagement.

Research suggests a connection between extracurricular activities and improved academic self-concept and achievement. Students who participate in extracurricular activities tend to demonstrate higher levels of academic performance, engagement, and motivation. 

Young girl leads a soccer ball between cones on sports court at school.

Moreover, extracurricular activities contribute to a positive school climate by fostering a sense of belonging, school pride, and community cohesion. Schools that prioritize diverse extracurricular opportunities demonstrate a commitment to promoting student success, well-being, and academic excellence.

Implementing culturally responsive curriculum and family engagement

Why is a culturally responsive curriculum so vital in schools today? Simply put, it recognizes and celebrates the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of students. By incorporating diverse cultural elements into the curriculum, schools create an inclusive environment for all students.

There’s a strong connection between culturally responsive curriculum and both improved school climate and attendance. When students see themselves reflected in what they’re learning, they’re more likely to feel engaged and connected to their education. This leads to greater academic engagement, improved grades, and positive academic outcomes overall.

Here are suggestions for incorporating culturally responsive curriculum:

  • Diverse representation: Consider how you can include literature, history, and scientific contributions from a variety of cultures and perspectives in the curriculum.
  • Cultural competency training: Professional development opportunities for teachers can enhance their cultural competency and awareness, which benefits student engagement.
  • Student voice and choice: Allowing students to explore topics related to their own cultural backgrounds and interests  through projects and assignments is a great way to cultivate cultural responsiveness and inclusivity.
  • Community partnerships: Schools can collaborate with community organizations and cultural institutions to bring diverse perspectives and resources into the classroom.
  • Implicit bias awareness: It’s important to raise awareness among staff about implicit biases and their impact on teaching and learning. Be sure to implement strategies to mitigate biases in the classroom, too.
  • Culturally responsive teaching: Teaching methods that honor and incorporate students’ cultural backgrounds, such as storytelling, cooperative learning, and experiential activities, are effective in engaging students in positive ways.

Being culturally responsive doesn’t stop at the classroom—schools can implement it in all aspects of school life, including culturally responsive family engagement strategies. These efforts create a sense of belonging and partnership between schools and families from diverse backgrounds.

Culturally Responsive Image Button

Policies for student attendance and staff well-being

Effective school policies serve as the guiding principles behind the endeavors, strategies, and programs of the entire school community. As the “architects” of a positive school climate, policies shape every aspect of the school experience, from academic performance to overall school satisfaction.

By providing clear attendance guidelines and robust support systems for teachers, these policies ensure that every element of the school environment contributes to successful educational outcomes and the social and emotional well-being of every student. This comprehensive approach transforms the school into a thriving ecosystem where students can flourish.

Attendance policies

Attendance guidelines set clear expectations for students and families. These rules are a playbook for success, designed to set crystal-clear expectations for both students and families. By outlining exactly how to report absences and what happens if school days are missed, these guidelines cut through confusion and make sure everyone is on the same page. 

This clarity not only reduces misunderstandings but also strengthens the connection between families and schools, ensuring that school personnel are not just enforcers, but supporters and allies in students’ educational journeys.

For example, consider a policy where if a student misses a certain number of days, a collaborative meeting is set up with their parents or guardians. This isn’t about pointing fingers; it’s a proactive approach to bring families into the conversation early, allowing school leaders to collaborate with them to tackle challenges before they turn into hurdles that hinder academic achievement, a student’s ability to access school effectively, etc.

Communication is the heartbeat of this process. When school administrators keep parents in the loop about their child’s attendance, sending alerts about patterns that might raise concerns, it empowers parents. Sending kudos or positive feedback about strong attendance can further reinforce positive behaviors and strengthen the connection between home and school. This partnership is key to building a community where all students are valued and supported.

Moreover, making sure that families, especially those from diverse backgrounds, understand these policies is vital. ParentPowered offers a “Welcome to School in the US” guide for families unfamiliar with the K-12 education system, ensuring that no family feels left out or uninformed.

Supporting teachers

Teachers play a crucial role in shaping the students’ perceptions of school climate. Each day, their interactions create a world of trust and belonging, going beyond simply imparting knowledge. Picture a classroom where every student is warmly greeted by name, where their concerns are attentively listened to, and their achievements joyfully celebrated. 

In these nurturing environments, guided by caring teachers, student performance thrives and school satisfaction intensifies. These educators are fundamental in cultivating positive school experiences that naturally encourage regular attendance. By backing these efforts with supportive policies, schools give educators the tools they need to create a truly welcoming and inclusive classroom environment.

Strong relationships with teachers are vital when it comes to getting students into the classroom, and supportive policies reflect this principle. Here are a few examples of policies that empower teachers and school staff to cultivate a positive school climate:

A black teacher smiles as he helps young multiethnic students with their work.
  • Feedback mechanisms, like teacher surveys or suggestion boxes, promote open communication and enable administrators to address teacher needs and concerns effectively.
  • Policies prioritizing teacher well-being, such as balanced class sizes and access to mental health resources, prevent burnout and maintain positive classroom dynamics.
  • Involving teachers in policy-making ensures practical solutions that address classroom challenges, fostering a collaborative school environment.
  • Consistent application of policies through staff training reinforces school rules and maintains a positive school climate.

Teachers’ ability to educate, motivate, inspire, and support students doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. By ensuring that teachers are well-supported, schools aren’t just enhancing educational outcomes; they’re nurturing a school culture that resonates with the joy and passion for learning.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Building a positive school climate: The power of everyone’s contribution

Reflecting on my final year of teaching, I realized that creating a positive school climate requires everyone’s involvement—from students and teachers to support staff and parents. Each person in the school ecosystem plays a pivotal role, and the impact of their contributions resonates throughout every hallway and classroom. 

It’s a collaborative effort that shapes more than just the atmosphere. It shapes whether or not students want to attend school. It shapes their academic and social development. It shapes lives.

At ParentPowered, we recognize that creating such an environment goes beyond mere policy—it’s about building a community where families and schools partner hand in hand. Our mission is to empower this partnership by giving caregivers the knowledge and tools they need to collaborate with educators and build a school climate where every student thrives.

If you’re ready to transform your school’s climate and see firsthand what “low lift, high impact” family engagement can achieve, reach out to us at ParentPowered! 

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About the author

Megan Okrand is a former High School History teacher turned writer taking her passion for education outside of the classroom and into the World Wide Web. Megan holds a master’s degree in secondary education and teaching from the University of Southern California as well as a master’s degree in art history, criticism, and conservation from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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