MDRC in the News

Student Absenteeism: “Can Informing Parents Help High School Students Show Up for School?”

Education Week


Text messages have proved to be powerful partners in reminding students of key milestones they need to complete in order to make it to college. So researchers wondered: Could texting produce a sustained improvement in high school students’ attendance?

Turns out the answer is no.

The research organization MDRC teamed up with New Visions for Public Schools, which provides coaching and other supports to a chain of 70 schools in New York City, to see if texts could improve attendance. New Visions wrote the texting software and put it into practice during the second semester of 2015-16.

The program accessed attendance records and automatically sent daily text messages to parents, telling them if their children had shown up for class that day. It also texted the parents weekly attendance summaries. But the experiment found that attendance wasn’t any better than for a control group of students whose parents did not receive texts, MDRC reports in a paper on the project.

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