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Attendance Matters - A letter from the Superintendent

9/18/17

 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We are off to a great start to the 2017-18 school year, but, even in these early days, some students may be heading toward academic trouble because they are missing too many days of school. Across the country, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year and absences often correlate with poor performance at every grade level.

This trend starts as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributing to achievement gaps and dropout rates. Here at Schalmont 35.8 percent of our students were absent 6- 10 days in the 2016-17 school year and 7.5 percent were absent 18 days or more.

This year, our community is recognizing September as Attendance Awareness Month, part of a nationwide movement to make, "every school day count."

Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader eff01ts to improve schools. Students need to be present to benefit from for our investments in curriculum and instruction.

Chronic absence can have consequences throughout a child’s academic career, especially for students living in poverty, who need education the most and are sometimes getting the least.

Problems with absenteeism can start early. National research shows that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent, meaning that they miss about 18 days of instruction, because of excused and unexcused absences.

Chronically absent kindergarteners and first graders are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, which makes them more likely to struggle in school. They are also more likely to be chronically absent in later years, since they never developed good attendance habits.

By middle school, chronic absence becomes one of the leading indicators that a child will drop out of high school. Absenteeism is a better indicator of drop outs than performance on eighth grade tests.

Chronic absence isn't just about truancy or skipping school. Some children sometimes stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, bullying or simply because their parents don't realize how quickly absences add up and affect school performance.

After all, 18 days is only two days a month in a typical school year.

The effects on student performance are the same whether absences are excused or unexcused or whether absences come consecutively or sporadically throughout the school year.

So, how do we tum this around?

Here at Schalmont, we closely analyze our attendance numbers and strive to partner with all families to make improvements in regular attendance overall.

We plan to step up our outreach efforts through education, letters, social media posts and home visits, if necessary.

A key step is informing families about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time and every day. Parents can help build good attendance habits, make sure children get enough sleep and avoid vacations while school is in session. The schools will reinforce these messages and, when they can, offer incentives for those students who show the best attendance or most improvement.

If we all think about what we can do within our families and our neighborhoods to help get more kids to school, together we can make, "every minute and every student count."

 

Dr. Carol A. Pallas

Superintendent of Schools