Regular School Attendance Essential to Success
September is national Attendance Awareness Month. (You can learn more about this initiative at http://www.attendanceworks.org/attendancemonth/.) As school begins, parents are often considering how to ensure their child has a successful school year. Ironically, one of the easiest ways to ensure a child’s success is one that is often overlooked: regular attendance. Nationwide, as many as one out of 10 students is chronically absent, which means that they miss 10 percent or more of school days. Chronic absence is a leading, early warning sign of academic trouble. Consider some of these facts:
- By 6th grade, missing 10% of the school year (18 days) is strongly linked to course failure and eventually dropping out of high school.
- By 9th grade, regular and high attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than 8th grade test scores. A full 25% of American students drop out of high school, and the majority of them were chronically absent first.
- Students should miss no more than 9 days of school each year to stay engaged, successful and on track to graduation.
- Absences can be a sign that a student is losing interest in school, struggling with school work, dealing with a bully, or facing some other potentially serious difficulty.
- Students can be chronically absent even if they only miss a day or two every couple of weeks.
What Parents Should Know
- Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the workplace.
- Absences matter regardless of whether the absences are sporadic or consecutive, excused or unexcused.
- Some absences are unavoidable – your child needs to stay home when they are sick. The important thing is to get your children to school as often as possible.
- Your child’s absences can affect the whole classroom, slowing down the teacher’s instruction.
What Parents Can Do
- Communicate the importance of showing up to school everyday and that you expect regular attendance. Be clear that you consider school to be your teen’s first and most important job. Teens should understand that they are learning responsibility by showing up to school on time every day, and they will be more successful both academically now, and in the workplace later.
- Help your child maintain daily routines, such as finishing homework and getting a good night’s sleep. Older children need 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of sleep each night. Make sure that when the lights go out, so do the cell phones, video games and computers.
- Families should avoid extended vacations that require your children to miss school. Try to line up vacations with the school’s schedule. And, try not to schedule dental and medical appointments during the school day.
- Be a positive role model. Do not call in sick to your workplace for any reason other than true illness. Avoid asking older students to miss school so they can help with household errands or watch a younger sibling.
- Don’t let your child stay home unless truly sick. Complaints of headaches or stomach aches may be signs of anxiety. If your child wants to miss school, determine the root cause:
- Find out if your child feels engaged by his classes or is bored.
- Ask your teen to tell you if they feel like they have too much work or don’t understand the lessons, so that you can help them. Stay on top of academic progress and seek help from teachers or tutors, if necessary.
- Make sure your teen has friends and feels safe from bullies, peer pressure, and other threats. Social issues are a frequent reason for skipping school.
- Determine if behavioral issues and school discipline policies are a problem for your child.
- Encourage meaningful afterschool activities, including sports and clubs.
- Know the school’s attendance policy – incentives and penalties. Check on your child’s attendance to be sure absences are not piling up.
- Get to know the teachers and administrators. Make sure they know how to contact you. Trusting relationships with teachers can help teens overcome barriers to good attendance. Approach your teen’s teachers if you notice sudden changes in their behavior. These could be tied to something going on at school.
Everyone can make a difference in the education of our youth by helping students and families understand that avoiding school absences, whenever possible, is essential for a child to realize their hopes and dreams.