Key Questions

1. What are incentive-based approaches to improving attendance?

2. What are key design and implementation considerations for incentives to boost attendance?

3. How can evaluation promote a cycle of improvement on the incentive design and implementation?


Accumulating evidence indicates that student attendance is closely tied to a range of educational outcomes, and yet millions of students are chronically absent each year. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools are now held accountable for their students' attendance at a scale this country has never before seen. As such, this is a crucial time to understand what research and evaluations suggest about what schools can do to move the needle on student attendance. 

As researchers work toward understanding the impact of different interventions and practices, and how results vary by grade level, on-the-ground experiences in schools highlight the pervasive use of incentives from pre-K to grade 12. Schools have employed a wide range of incentives to improve attendance, with varied levels of success. Unfortunately, there is little guidance on what policymakers and practitioners ought to consider when deciding if incentives are an appropriate intervention, and then how to design incentives in ways that align with the nature of specific attendance barriers and problems. This article presents a framework to fill that gap. We outline the design considerations when creating attendance incentives and offer guidance to practitioners deciding what to implement in their school.