Friday, August 30, 2013

School -- Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow

The stats prove it; good school attendance can make a significant and positive difference in your child’s future.  Whether for illness, family issues, or just plain truancy, research shows that missing just 10 percent of the school year – that’s just two or three days a month – is enough absenteeism to cause children to struggle academically. 

And the problem is not insignificant; 7.5 million students nationwide were chronically absent last year.  When chronic absenteeism (defined as a student who misses 10 percent – roughly 18 days of the school year) happens at the kindergarten and first grade level, statistics show that these children are unlikely to be reading proficiently by the end of third grade. 

Research also shows that, by 6th grade, missing 10 percent or more of school leads to course failure and often to dropping out at the high school level.  And at any grade school level, teachers and school administrators have learned that this 10-percent-or-greater level of absence is enough to indicate that the student is likely headed for trouble.

One positive development in the effort to improve attendance is the national Attendance Awareness Month, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Attendance Works.

Children getting on school bus

Why school attendance requires an awareness month

This alarming education crisis has been largely overlooked – something that the founders of Attendance Works are trying to change.  The goal of the organization and its school Attendance Awareness Month is to reduce absenteeism by promoting awareness of the problem and by supporting community-based solutions to reduce chronic absence at all grade levels. 

What the folks at Attendance Works are doing to make a difference

Attendance Works has already reached thousands with online tools and resources, presentations, and workshops.  As well, they maintain a media presence, educating the public about the risks of missing 10 percent of school days and how best to address this problem.

Previous successes by Attendance Works include shaping a Buffalo New York plan that reduced chronic absence by eight percent, a Los Angeles plan that resulted in 48,000 fewer absences, and an Oakland California toolkit for elementary schools designed to reduce chronic absence rates.

Their current year plans include assisting states in developing new research to expand awareness regarding chronic absence, engaging with key policymakers via a U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution, working with school superintendents to create a Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and expanding access to school attendance tools and webinars.

What you can do to help

Yes, there is much that you can do to reduce the problem of and risks from chronic absenteeism, whether on the home front or in your broader community.  Here are five ideas to get you started:
  • Stay on your attendance toes. Sign up for Attendance Awareness Month Updates to be apprised of events and activities you can get involved in to encourage attendance. 
  • Make a difference on Facebook.  Facebook users can download an Attendance Awareness Month Cover Photo.  The photo is exactly the size you need to display it as the cover photo on your Facebook Page as a way to help spread the word about Attendance Awareness Month and show your participation.
  • Learn more by watching!  If you or your children are not likely to find the time for, or interest in, reading the stats and info about school attendance and school absenteeism, check out the 6-minute  Attendance Works video: a well made, informative, and interesting tool to help you and your kids absorb the information you need to make a difference in your family’s or your community’s school attendance.
  • Promote attendance locally at your school, library, town hall, or business by downloading school attendance posters or banners. There are large-sized posters for elementary and separate banners for middle/high school,  good to keep up year-round; the kind that can you get printed at your local Staples or FedEx Kinkos for about $50.  Or you can download and print an 11×17 inch Attendance Month flyer from your own printer – the perfect size for posting throughout the community to raise school attendance awareness.  For the workplace or library, download the attendance infographic, spelling out the facts about chronic absence in the early grades. 
  • Make a difference with your wallet.  Given all the successes of the Attendance Works organization and it’s well articulated plans for the current and future years, consider making a donation to this worthy cause.
If you’re really gung ho on making a difference, get perfect attendance with the Count Us In Toolkit, which includes info on the importance of attendance and chronic absence, ideas for community partners and coalitions, proclamations, press releases, media tools, suggestions for incentives, contests, and events, and more. Better school attendance – this could be the easiest and cheapest way for you to improve your child’s success in school and beyond.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

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