Attendance Matters Project

Attendance Matters Project

At a Glance

The Attendance Matters Project is a research project that is being conducted in schools across San Mateo County. The San Mateo County Office of Education is partnering with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Harvard University to study student attendance and academic performance. If you and your student agree to participate in this project, you do not need to do anything. The project will last for the 2015-16 school year and through fall 2016.

**If you are looking to redeem the Amazon gift card that was sent out as a part of the most recent mailing, please click here or copy and paste the following link into your web browser:**

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About the Project

What is the purpose of this project?

This project is to help provide parents and guardians with more information about their student's attendance. We hope to gather information that will help schools in San Mateo County improve their communications with parents and guardians in the future.

Why does attendance matter?

  • Research states that missed days of school can contribute to missed opportunities for learning, regardless of the reason for each absence.
  • The mailing you receive includes the number of days absent (excused and unexcused absences) that your school district has on record for your student. We recognize that some absences, due to illness or emergencies, are unavoidable. Please discuss in advance with your student’s school and health provider when to keep your student at home.
  • The way absences are calculated may differ from district to district. We recommend that you contact your school or school district directly if you have any questions about the number of absences stated on the mailing.

What does it mean if my student and I take part in this project?

  • You and your student may receive communications during the school year about your student's attendance and school performance.
  • Your student's participation in this project means student data regularly collected by your school will be shared with the research team, collaborators, and the project's mail vendors. The data includes attendance, academic performance, demographics, and contact information and will only be used for the purpose of this study.
  • By agreeing to participate, you and your student are letting us know it is okay for us to contact you about your student and to use your student's data.
  • You and your student may change your mind and opt out of the communications at any time. Not participating in this project or stopping participation during the project will not affect your student's academic standing.

If my student and I participate, will our privacy be protected? What happens to the data you collect?

  • The data will be confidential and only used for this project. We will use a random number to label and store data instead of your student's name.
  • The information with your student's data may be reviewed by people checking that this project is done correctly.
  • The data will be publicly reported as group data; individual students will not be identified. 
  • Every aspect of the project must meet the standards of the Harvard University Institutional Review Board. Data is for research only and cannot be shared or sold. All current project elements are fully compliant with FERPA.

What are the possible risks and benefits of participation in this project?

We see no likely risks or discomforts for you or your student. We cannot promise any benefits to you or your student from taking part in this project. You and your student will not be paid for participating. However, possible benefits include improved attendance and performance in school.

If I have any questions or concerns about this project, whom can I talk to?

If you have other questions or concerns, please contact the research team at Harvard University (; 650-382-3927) or the San Mateo County Office of Education (; 650-802-5440).

Participation is voluntary. If you and your student AGREE to participate in this project, you do not need to do anything. 

If you or your student DO NOT want to participate in this project, you can do one of the following:

  1. Email with the information listed below
  2. Call (650) 382-3927 with the information listed below
  3. Mail the bottom of your informed consent form to
        The Attendance Matters Project
        Harvard Kennedy School
        79 JFK Street, Mailbox 64
        Cambridge, MA 02138

When you call or email, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Student full name
  • Student school name
  • Student grade level
  • The four-digit code located below your address (example: A1B1)
  • Clear statement that you do not want to participate in this project

The requested information is collected to make sure the correct parent/guardian and student are included in this project. You and your student can opt out at any time, which means you will stop receiving messages as part of this research study. 

This project has been reviewed by the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research at Harvard University, who can be reached for questions or concerns at (617) 496-2847, 1414 Massachusetts Avenue, Second Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, or

We thank all of our families for their continued trust and support in San Mateo County schools. 


Informed Consent

Informed consent forms were mailed to all parents and guardians in the participating school districts. If you did not receive a form or received a form in the wrong language, you can find copies below:


New State Standards

Some of the mailings that participants may receive reference the California State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. These new standards are built around 21st-century skills that today's students will need to succeed in college and career. 

For additional information on these standards, visit the California PTA website, or view the standards for yourself:

English Language Arts and Literacy: English | Español
Mathematics: English | Español


The final report for the project showed that regular and specific communication with elementary school families about the importance of school attendance resulted in improved school attendance, especially for those students considered "chronically absent."