Regular Attendance Key to Success in School

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 a factor that is often overlooked: regular attendance. Research shows that consistent attendance at school helps children achieve better grades, develop healthy life habits, avoid dangerous behavior and have a better chance of graduating from high school.

Chronic absence is a leading, early warning sign of academic trouble. Consider some of these facts:

  • Nationwide, about one out of every six students missed three weeks or more of school, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and this type of chronic absenteeism is more prevalent in high school.
  • 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.
  • Students can be chronically absent even if they only miss a day or two every couple of weeks.

The reasons for absenteeism are quite varied, but can include poor health, academic struggles, social anxiety, limited transportation, trauma, caring for family members, or a lack of safety, all of which are more common in disadvantaged communities. A good education often forms the foundation for ending the cycle of poverty.

What Parents Should Know

  • Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the workplace.
  • Absences matter and impact academic performance 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 progress of the entire classroom, slowing down the teacher’s instruction.

What Parents Can Do

  • Be clear that you consider school to be your teen’s first and most important job and that you expect regular attendance. 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 teens 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 teens to miss school so they can help with household errands or watch a younger sibling.
  • Take an interest in your teen’s schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and hobbies.
  • Don’t let your teen 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 teen.
  • 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.

Final Thoughts…

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.

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