September is National Attendance Awareness month. Studies show that one of the most powerful ways to prepare a child for success – both in school and in life – is through regular school attendance. Students who miss two or more days a month are less likely to graduate from high school.
Chronic absence is an alarming, often overlooked problem that is preventing too many children from having an opportunity to learn and succeed. It affects 5 million to 7.5 million students — more than one in 10 — nationwide. This is not just a problem in middle and high school; it starts in kindergarten and preschool. It is a problem in districts of every size, urban, suburban, and rural.
Attendance is essential to school success, but too often, students and parents do not realize how quickly absences — excused and unexcused — can add up to academic trouble. Chronic absenteeism — missing 10 percent of the school year, or just 2-3 days every month — can translate into 3rd graders unable to master reading, 6th graders failing courses, and 9th graders dropping out of high school.
The Importance of Good Attendance:
Children can suffer academically if they miss 10 percent of school days.
It doesn’t matter if the absences are excused or unexcused; all absences represent lost time in the classroom and a lost opportunity to learn.
Attendance matters as early as kindergarten. Studies show children who miss too many days in kindergarten and first grade can struggle academically in later years. They often have trouble mastering reading by the end of third grade.
Preschool is a great time to start building a habit of good attendance. Studies show that poor attendance in preschool can predict absenteeism in later grades.
By middle and high school, chronic absenteeism is a leading warning sign that a student is at risk of dropping out.
How Families Can Make a Difference:
Families should avoid extended vacations that require children to miss school. Try to align vacation dates with the school calendar. The same goes for doctor and dental appointments.
For younger children, set regular bedtime and morning routines. Make sure children get 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Lay out clothes and pack backpacks the night before to avoid morning stress.
For older children, set homework and bedtime routines that allow for 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep. Make sure that when the lights go out, so do the cell phones, video games, and computers.
Get to know teachers and administrators. With younger children, keep in touch with teachers throughout the year. For older students, use Family Access to monitor progress, attendance, and missing assignments.
Above all, parents can set a good example – reinforcing that regular attendance is important, unless the child is sick. Don’t ask older students to help with daycare and household errands that may jeopardize their own education.
Families can also turn to the school for help. Many schools offer services for the whole family.
Why Students Should Care about Attendance:
School is the first and most important job for students. They are learning about more than math and reading. They are learning how to show up for school, on time, every day...so that when they graduate, they will have developed skills and habits that will serve them well throughout life.
School only gets more difficult for students who are absent excessively.
Students who attend school regularly are more likely to graduate and find good jobs. In fact, over a lifetime, a high school graduate makes, on average, a million dollars more than a dropout.