Tags: Education, Featured Story, Parenting
When children don’t attend school, they can’t learn. That seems pretty simple. Yet absenteeism and truancy are problems for schools across the nation. A recent analysis from the U.S. Department of Education shows that chronic absenteeism impacts students in all parts of the country and is prevalent among all races, as well as students with disabilities.
The first-ever national comprehensive data collected on chronic absenteeism found more than 6 million students—or 13 percent of all students—missed at least 15 days of school in the 2013-14 school year.
"Chronic absenteeism is a national problem," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "Frequent absences from school can be devastating to a child's education. Missing school leads to low academic achievement and triggers drop outs. Millions of young people are missing opportunities in postsecondary education, good careers and a chance to experience the American dream."
Kern County Schools wants to head off an upward trend of absenteeism by kicking off Attendance Awareness Month to remind parents the importance of keeping kids in school and the importance of attendance.
“Attendance has been brought to the forefront as correlational studies have shown that students who miss school tend to have lower grades, lower test scores and lower graduation rates,” explained Bryan Campoy, supervising administrator, innovative programs at Kern High School District.
Doing the math
School attendance is essential to academic success, but too often students, parents and schools do not realize how quickly absences — excused as well as unexcused — can add up to academic trouble.
According to the California Education Code, chronic absence is missing 10 percent of the school year, or about two to three days every month.
“For most Kern County schools, including Kern high schools, that is 18 or more days of missed school,” Campoy explained.
Frequent absences can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing courses and ninth-graders dropping out of high school. The impact hits low-income students, who most depend on school for providing opportunities to learn, particularly hard.
This year will be the first year that California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System will collect attendance data, as well as provide schools and districts comparable data. This collection will give local districts a common definition for chronic absenteeism.
“As educators, we want students to reach their full potential and graduate with a diploma, while being college and career ready,” Campoy said. “High school graduates, on average, make over a million dollars more than a dropout in their lifetime.”
Making the grade
Truancy isn’t just a product of parent irresponsibility or neglect. It can be a result of even the most well-intended parent. Those “mental health days” you allow your middleschooler to take, as well as multiple family vacations? They can add up before you know it.
“The school year is only 180 days, please plan accordingly,” Campoy said. “We must make school attendance a top priority in order to ensure high academic success for all students. Bottom line is every day counts.”
Campoy is so passionate about keeping kids in school because he has seen the research that has shown attendance in eighth grade is a better predictor of high school graduation than test scores.
“High school chronic absenteeism is the leading warning sign that a student will drop out of school,” he said. “That is why it is particularly important that students should only miss school because they have a fever or a contagious illness, and a doctor has deemed a student to stay home and recover.”
Attendance Awareness Month, set for mid-August through September, will include evening meetings with parents and students for a Truancy Orientation.
Support will continue through the year as well. “We have an outreach team that goes out door-to-door to follow up on chronically absent students and their families to connect them to additional resources that will lead the student back to school,” Campoy said.
“We provide intervention referrals for parent meetings, such as Parent Project and Parents on a Mission, while also encouraging families to access other services such as health services, housing information, transportation and nutrition assistance.”
Campoy said the Student Attendance Review Team meets on school sites to support families and provide intervention to get their student to come to school. Cooperation extends throughout the school community, Campoy said.
“We helped bring Kern County’s first Truancy Conference to town through partnerships with Kings County and Kern County Superintendent of Schools,” he said. “The three-day summit featured state and local expert speakers, panelists, trainings and breakout sessions with an ultimate goal of providing attendees the resources and tools to help reduce truancy and chronic absenteeism in Central Valley schools.”
In the end, it’s all about student success. “The mission of the KHSD is to graduate students prepared to succeed in the workplace and the post-secondary level,” Campoy said. “Attendance is a priority in achieving our mission and we are seeing positive results.”