A Multidimensional, Multi-Tiered System of Supports Model to Promote School Attendance and Address School Absenteeism

Christopher A. Kearney, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Patricia A. Graczyk, University of Illinois At Chicago


School attendance and school completion are important benchmarks of successful development. Unfortunately, school absenteeism and school dropout remain debilitating and prevalent conditions among youth. Stakeholders invested in promoting school attendance and reducing school absenteeism generally agree that multifaceted ecological frameworks are needed to account for these heterogeneous problems as well as differences across local education agencies and broader jurisdictions. A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) framework emphasizes many aspects that match well with school attendance and its problems, including prevention and a continuum of supports, screening, evidence-based assessment and intervention, problem-solving and data-based decision-making, implementation fidelity, and natural embedding into extant school improvement plans. This article outlines a multidimensional MTSS model for school attendance and absenteeism to account for recent developments regarding service delivery within schools. Such developments include integrated models of multi-tiered service delivery to concurrently address multiple domains of functioning, the development of more nuanced approaches for students with various challenges, and consideration of three-dimensional (pyramidal) perspectives to allow simultaneous and yet nuanced strategies for several domain clusters. Sample domain clusters common to the literature that could populate the multiple dimensions or sides of a MTSS pyramid model for school attendance and absenteeism are presented. These domain clusters include (1) school refusal/truancy/school withdrawal/school exclusion, (2) functional profiles and analysis, (3) preschool/elementary/middle/high school, (4) ecological levels of impact on school attendance and its problems, and (5) low/moderate/high absenteeism severity. Recommendations are made as well regarding broader MTSS integration and implementation science vis-à-vis school attendance and its problems.