Innovative Strategies for Boosting School Attendance

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In this case study we look at one Tennessee school’s innovative approaches to improving student attendance, including the use of TikTok challenges and parent engagement strategies.

North Parkway Middle School (NPMS) is dedicated to providing the highest quality of education for ALL students while promoting a safe environment through fostering relationships with students, families, and thier community. Located on the east side of Jackson, Tennessee, NPMS serves 356 students in grades sixth through eighth. Over the past 3 years, NPMS has diligently worked to reduce their chronically absent students. Starting at a rate of 54% of students chronically absent each year, the staff at NPMS has decreased this statistic incrementally. When this interview took place in February of 2024, NPMS’s current chronic absenteeism rate was at 12%, a 41% decrease in chronic absenteeism from when they started this journey in 2021. 

To encourage attendance, they’ve implemented fun activities, like out-of-dress-code days and fun Fridays. They also worked on increasing family engagement, as well as transportation issues with the superintendent using a heat map to track bus timings. Keep reading to see how NPMS has exceeded its annual measurable objective (AMO) for attendance within the last year.


How did your journey with tackling attendance challenges begin?

Our journey began by recognizing the high rate of chronically absent students, which initially stood at 54%. We made concerted efforts to reduce this rate incrementally by implementing engaging activities and addressing logistical issues such as transportation. Over the past three years, these efforts have been aimed at making our school more appealing and accessible to our students.

What are some successes you have had around attendance in the last year?

In the last year, we have successfully reduced our chronic absenteeism rates by almost 40%. Implementing various fun and engaging activities like out-of-dress-code days, TikTok challenges, and increasing family engagement have helped us in our efforts. These initiatives have not only improved attendance on typically low-attendance days like Fridays and Mondays but have also helped us meet and exceed our annual measurable objective (AMO) for attendance.


How has technology contributed to these successes?

Technology, particularly the use of TikTok, has played a significant role in our success. We have a school-wide TikTok we use called NP Panthers to showcase students and teachers. By introducing TikTok Fridays, where students participate in fun challenges, we have managed to increase attendance, especially on Fridays. Sometimes students come to us with ideas. We try to do these activities during non-instructional times like PE or lunch. We also involve teachers, often recreating the same challenges we do with students. This approach leverages a platform students are excited about, making school attendance more attractive. To participate in the TikTok creation, you must be in school. 

Can you tell me more about the family engagement piece?

One of the mitigation tactics we have is making  house calls. During our visits, if the family does not answer, we leave a door hanger note on their door. The note states: “I’m sorry we missed you. We stopped by to meet with you about your child’s attendance. We have made several attempts to reach you. It is urgent that you contact the school to avoid further actions.” This yellow door hanger gets their attention and allows us to work in collaboration with the family on the next steps to increase their child’s attendance. We want to be of service to our families, and we aim to connect them with the right service if need be.


What is your strategy for success?

Our strategy for success revolves around creating a school environment that students want to be part of. Cultivating positive relationships is something we strive to do. We want the students to know they have a voice. In December of this year we thought, if we want to know what is going on with our scholars, why not just ask them? So we sent out a survey to our students. We learned that students are taking care of younger siblings, had issues with transportation, and some even  expressed concerns around bullying. This helps us know how we can intervene and support these students in need. In addition to the surveys, we also have out-of-dress-code days. Students need to attend school the entire week to participate. This encourages them to come to school, especially on Mondays. It also gives them something to look forward to at the end of the week, since we typically wear a uniform.


In addition to increasing the positive culture of the school, you mentioned improving logistics around transportation. What does that look like?

Transportation has been a large roadblock for many families. We have worked with our superintendent to incorporate new tools to resolve some of the transportation challenges. One of the tools we use is what’s called a heat map. The heat maps show you where each bus is in its route to optimize bus schedules.


Big Takeways

One of the big takeaways is the importance of making school a place that students want to attend. Engaging them through activities they find enjoyable and ensuring that logistical issues do not hinder their attendance have been crucial. The use of technology and creative incentives has shown that when students are excited about school, their attendance improves.

What would you tell other leaders or educators interested in doing something similar?

I would advise other leaders or educators to consider what motivates their students and to create a school environment that leverages those motivations. Engage students with fun and relevant activities, address any logistical barriers to attendance, and actively involve parents in the process. It’s also important to be flexible and innovative in your approaches, as what works can vary greatly from one context to another.

What are you still figuring out?

We are still figuring out how to maintain and build upon our current successes. This includes finding new and innovative ways to keep students engaged and ensuring that our initiatives remain effective over time. We are also continuously looking for ways to better address the needs of our students and to further reduce absenteeism rates.

About The Author


Bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience in education, Dr. LaDonna Braswell has served as Principal at North Parkway for the past 3 years, driving a culture of excellence and empowerment. Recognized as a servant leader, she is devoted to nurturing critical thinking skills in every scholar she encounters. With a steadfast commitment to student success, Dr. Braswell continues to shape futures and inspire positive change within the school community.


Bringing 12 years of comprehensive experience in education, Dr. DeCourtney Turner has spent the last 3 years as an Assistant Principal at North Parkway, demonstrating leadership and dedication to academic excellence. He brings knowledge and commitment to fostering a positive and enriching learning environment. Dr. Turner is dedicated to supporting the school community in achieving its educational goals.


With 22 years of invaluable experience in the Jackson-Madison County school district, Mrs. Brooke Hall has dedicated the past 9 years to serving as an instructional coach at North Parkway. As an experienced educator, she brings a wealth of knowledge to support and elevate teaching practices. Mrs. Hall is passionate about fostering professional growth and contributing to the success of both educators and scholars in the district.