School Attendance - What's the Big Deal?
The attendance officer at any school is assigned to the role of ensuring that state statutes and district and school attendance policies are being monitored and adhered. These officers are the ones that meet personally with students, send letters home to parents, schedule parent attendance meetings, and in rare cases are obligated to pursue truancy court proceedings with students and families. There is a good reason and a great deal of research to support creating and enforcing attendance policies at each grade level. It is important that parents emphasize to their children that school is their first and most important job. When students are at school, they are learning more than just subjects as math and reading. They are learning to be disciplined in their attendance efforts so they may fulfill graduation obligations which will lead to furthering their education experience and/or obtaining a stable job. Studies have shown that students who graduate from high school will earn approximately one million dollars more than that of a high school dropout over the course of their lifetime. Even periodic absences create learning gaps and can create a high level of academic frustration due to missed instruction and learning opportunities.
Students who attend school regularly (missing less than 10 scheduled school days) have an increased likelihood of achieving academic success. They receive regular instruction in academic areas and are more likely to score at grade level proficiency or higher on math and reading assessments. They are more likely to feel like they belong at school and to participate in school activities that build a sense of community and strong individual and team work ethics.
Parents play an integral role in establishing a positive habit of regular school attendance. Parents send the initial message to children that education and regular school attendance is important and that they are committed to being a supporter of their student and school success. As parents a few things you can do to make school attendance a priority in your child’s life are: create and maintain daily routines such as homework completion and getting a good night’s sleep, schedule appointments and family vacations around the school’s schedule, and limit the use of technology and video games and promote reading prior to bedtime. It is also important to know that the compulsory attendance law refers to “all or part” of school days which addresses the issues of students being tardy to school or classes. While it is important to be in attendance every school day, it is just as important to be on time.
School districts realize that students’ truancy issues are not just a school issue, but also are a community concern as well. The School District of Rhinelander has joined forces with several county agencies to form the Oneida County Truancy Reduction Task Force in an effort to create a consistent response to student absences across the county. The district has established working relationships with school liaison officers, local judges, law enforcement, Oneida County Department Social Services, the district attorney and corporation counsel offices, AOD and mental health providers. This task force has worked together to obtain grant monies that not only help address student truancy issues, but also focusses on academic and credit recovery opportunities. In addition, the School District of Rhinelander understands that having positive, trusting relationships with an adult at school enhances the student’s likelihood of attending school on daily basis. With this in mind, SDR uses the Check and Connect program to encourage interaction between school personnel and students.
Families, schools and the community have to work together to create an environment in which all students see the importance and benefits of regular school attendance. When it comes to education, all evidence suggests that students “Must be present to win!”
Richard Gretzinger and Mary Rudis