Attendance-Did You Know

Did you know that missing one day a week of school from K-11th grade is the equivalent of missing five semesters of schooling?

Did you know that just being half an hour late to school each day from K-10th grade is equivalent to missing nearly six marking periods or three semesters?

School attendance is a strong predictor of school success or failure, and approximately 30% of high school students, 20% of middle school students and 14% of elementary students are chronically truant.  The research is clear. Students learn best when they attend school every day, and good attendance establishes a pattern of responsibility and commitment that will serve students throughout their lives –including college and the workplace.  Dr. Loujeania Williams Bost, Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (NDPC-SD), shared that sixth graders, who do not attend school regularly, receive poor behavior marks, fail math or English, and  have a 10% chance of graduating on time and a 20% chance of graduating a year late. In fact, the process begins in the elementary years. Potential dropouts could be distinguished from graduates with 66% accuracy by the 3rd grade using attendance data as well as behavior and academic information.

What can a school do help students attend school regularly? There are strategies that do help. According to Dr. Bost, schools need to create a culture that “Attending every day matters!” Every absence should bring a response and two or more unexcused absences in a month bring brief daily checks by an adult.  Research shows that positive social incentives for good attendance do make a difference. In addition, tracking attendance data at the teacher team level is important.  

Schools that have shown success often have an Attendance Team that includes teachers, counselors, administrators, and the parent who investigates and problem solves about why a particular student is not attending school. Parents need to be involved and they need to understand their responsibilities around improving attendance.

Schools can take action by examining their attendance data and understanding the problem. They need to know the attendance laws and local policies regarding attendance. They can develop an Attendance Team that develops a plan across agencies and adopt practices that “fit” locally.

By focusing on attendance and engagement – not just truancy and by creating both incentives and graduated sanctions, and by involving students and their parents in planning programs, schools can see their attendance rates for students go up.

Dr. Laura Brown