Reducing Chronic Absenteeism
The opening days of school conjure up images of backpacks stuffed with notebooks and unsharpened pencils, bulletin boards freshly decorated by teachers, and students showing off new clothes to old friends.
But even in these early days of the new school year, some students already are heading toward academic trouble: They're missing too many days of school. Across the country, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year- absences that can correlate with poor performance at every grade level.
This trend starts as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributing to achievement gaps and ultimately to dropout rates. In our community, over 10% of students are chronically absent.
That's why the School District of Indian River County is joining a nationwide Call to Action and pledging to make improved attendance a top priority for this school year. The call comes from two national groups, Attendance Works and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, that aim to improve attendance, starting in the early grades.
In the early grades, chronic absence often has little to do with truancy or willfully skipping school. Instead, children stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, or simply because their parents don't understand how quickly absences can add up-and affect school performance. After all, 18 days is only two days a month in a typical school year.
So we are turning this around, beginning with the following initiatives:
- Letting families know about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day, and that it's up to them to build a habit of good attendance, enforce bedtimes and other routines, and avoid vacations while school is in session.
- Running PSA's on our educational channel to give parents facts and tips on what to do to build attendance habits.
- Sending home information stressing the importance of attendance for kindergarten students.
- Creating attendance mentoring programs.
Since schools can't do this alone we are inviting the community to join us in our efforts. Think about what you can do within your own family and neighborhood to help get the word out of why attendance matters! ATTEND TODAY, ACHIEVE TOMORROW!
Thank you to our guest columnist, Dr.Lillian Torres-Martinez, Director of Student Services for the School District of Indian River County. To learn more about how you can get involved in reducing chronic absenteeism, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: