MDRC in the News

Can Texting Lead to Sustained Attendance Gains for High Schools? Nope.

Education Week


Text messages have proven 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 we use texting to produce a sustained improvement in high school students’ attendance?

Turns out that 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 whether 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 the texts, MDRC reports in a paper on the texting project.

That’s not to say that texting can’t have any impact on attendance. The MDRC report points out that a few other studies have found that getting texts about attendance can improve student attendance within a week of getting the text message. The MDRC study sought to examine whether students’ attendance over the course of an entire semester could be affected if their parents received regular texts…..

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