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Attendance in Online and Blended Learning Environments

COVID-19 Related Information

Attendance (08/24/20 Regulator Flexibility Framework Update)The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will require school districts to record attendance this school year for in-person, virtual, or remote instruction. The information below is meant to provide examples of how to address attendance in different formats. 

Reporting Attendance in Different Digital Learning Environments October 1, 2020 

In-Person: Standard reporting practices and guidance apply. Attendance should be taken daily. Information on reporting attendance in this scenario can be found on the DPI website under Attendance: WISEdata.

Virtual Instruction: There are multiple options for taking attendance in virtual (digital, analog, synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid) instructional settings. Examples of how to do so may include:

  • Learning Management System Records,
  • Evidence of daily work,
  • Submission or completion of an assignment, module, exam,
  • System log-in,
  • Weekly progress reports,
  • Attendance is taken in the synchronous event(s), 
    • The student is present during the event,
    •  The educator collects evidence that the student accessed the event (if recorded),
  • Contact or activity logs,
  • Pacing charts or adequate course progress,
  • A daily check-in with the student (virtual meeting, email connection, phone),
  • Regular weekly check-ins with parents/guardians.

The DPI is also linking to the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative brief on online attendance for schools seeking additional information on attendance in an online environment. Schools that provide packets of work for virtual instruction may want to consider what information should accompany the work in order for students and parents to understand how much of the packet counts as a daily or weekly amount of work, along with how it will be collected or submitted for attendance purposes. These decisions should translate into what counts as attendance and when attendance reporting is updated in the local student information system. Attendance may be reported in half or full-day increments, depending upon local policy. This policy may differ by grade level or range. DPI recommends that schools enter attendance daily, providing corrections as appropriate on a weekly basis. If a school or district elects to report attendance at different intervals (weekly or longer), please note that WISEdash for Districts reports data updated on a nightly basis and may not be accurate if local reporting differs from the daily updates. DPI will capture official attendance data for 2020-21 in December 2021, as part of the Year-End WISEdata snapshot.

Online and Blended Learning Attendance 

Online Learning

Tracking attendance at a school with blended or virtual options presents unique challenges. Districts have the flexibility to define attendance in local policy. Furthermore, districts are strongly encouraged to have a separate local attendance policy for virtual or blended course offerings, if applicable, which may use nontraditional data, such as course progress, engagement, synchronous instructional time, system activity, student logs, etc. to create an equivalency that can meet the rules of traditional reporting. Districts will also want to consult with their student information system (SIS) provider to confirm that the attendance policy can be supported by their SIS.

Following are examples of how districts may define and track attendance in a virtual or blended setting:

  1. The district has a policy that defines attendance in an online setting at the course level. In any given week, a student completing an assignment for a course is considered to have 100% attendance for that course for that week. If the student partially completes the assignment the student would have partial attendance for the week. A school may enter daily attendance for the student throughout the week, correcting any entries at the end of the week, depending on how many assignments were completed.
  2. The district has a policy that defines attendance in an online setting in terms of 2-way communication per course. A student receiving and responding to communication from a teacher in a course is considered to be in attendance for that week, for that course. Students not responding in the defined time period would be marked absent for the week for the course.

As a reminder, districts with virtual and blended options for students must be responsible for creating and maintaining attendance records for students. Districts cannot ask parents to maintain or provide data for attendance or grading. In addition, districts are encouraged to connect attendance expectations to district policy related to truancy. The following language is used by several districts in the state:

Students not meeting the minimum attendance requirement for any course, (or combination of courses if enrolled in more than one course) for part or all of 5 or more days in which school is held, are considered to be habitually truant and therefore in violation of Wisconsin’s Compulsory Attendance Statutes 118.15 (1) (a) that require a child attend school regularly until graduation from high school, or until the end of the semester in which he/she turns 18 years of age, or until he/she is excused from attendance by the school board.

Habitual Truancy in Online and Blended Learning

When a student is identified as habitually truant, school staff should follow procedures outlined in state statute in a culturally responsive trauma-sensitive manner. Attention must be paid to avoid practices that further punish traditionally marginalized students so that newly developed practices reduce harm and increase connection.

Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) exposure is associated with chronic school absenteeism in school-age children1. Responses to truancy should be considered through the lens of the Trauma-Sensitive Schools (TSS) values of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. Procedures that are considered through the lens of these values will support all students. Additionally, relationships are foundational for positive conditions for learning and facilitate a student’s sense of belonging. Attention should be paid to how responses to truancy increase a student’s relationships amongst adults and peers and contribute to a sense of belonging in the school community.

Additional Resources:

  • Framework and Key Concepts for Leveraging Chronic Absence During the Coronavirus Pandemic - Attendance Works


    • Works developed a multi-phase framework to assist educators and their partners in thinking strategically about supporting students and families. This includes planning a data-informed, restorative transition back to school; strategies for connecting with students and families; and strategies to combat chronic absence. They also have a new data framework with additional metrics, (contact, connectivity, relationships, and participation) for the purposes of establishing early warning systems and informing program and policy decisions.

  • Practices Brief: Improving Student Engagement and Attendance During COVID-19 School Closures - American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Insight Policy Research

    • This brief discusses questions about whether and how attendance should be taken and measured in an online environment and highlights the importance of meaningful remote engagement that leads to learning. This includes promising practices and lessons learned through early implementation.

Cross Systems Work on Truancy Plans

At least once every 4 years, in each county, the school district administrator of the school district which contains the county seat designated under s. 59.05, or his or her designee, shall convene a committee to review and make recommendations to the school boards of all of the school districts in the county on revisions to the school districts' truancy plans under sub. (4m). Specific representatives of specific agencies must be included per statute. (See WI county seat map.)

Waukesha County Example

In Waukesha County, systems staff worked together, as other counties in the state have done, and created action plans and resources. They have graciously provided us with examples you can use of a tiered system for attendance interventions and a brochure for parents about the importance of attendance (not a district or county-specific).

1 Stempel, H, Cox-Martin, M., Bronsert, M., Dickinson, L.M., & Allison, M.A. (2017).Chronic School Absenteeism and the Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Attendance Works.