Let’s Talk about Attendance -- Every School Day Counts
Students, parents, teachers and school leadership are gearing up for a new school year. Next week, students, with support from those around them, will embark on a journey to master new skills. In order to guarantee progress and work toward academic success, there is one vital message that we can start emphasizing as summer break winds down—every school day counts!
In order to take full advantage of instructional time and other school resources, students need to be at school every day for the full day. This is the only way to ensure that they can access opportunities for they academic and social-emotional development.
Last year, we published a policy brief exploring truancy and chronic absenteeism in DC schools. During the 2012-13 school year, over 20% of students had more than 10 unexcused absences. Research indicates that students who miss 10% or more days of school each year, especially in the early grades, are at-risk of falling behind and struggling to graduate on time. Furthermore, chronic absence can be detrimental to the entire class since teachers spend time meeting the needs of students who miss substantial amounts of school.
Evidence from our partners at Attendance Works suggests that establishing a culture of good attendance early in the school year prevents chronic absenteeism and sets students on a path to achieving their academic goals. Children who miss school days in the first month are 5 times more likely to be chronically absent for the school year.
DC Action for Children promotes regular school attendance from the onset of the school year. Our goal is to see reductions in not only truancy, but in chronic absenteeism. Whether or not a student misses a school day for an unexcused reason, they miss critical instructional time and learning opportunities with their peers.
Many students and families face challenges that can make getting to school difficult; however, we have to ask ourselves an important question-- what can we do as a community to change the culture of attendance and provide necessary supports to families to ensure every child is in school?
DC Action hopes that school leaders at OSSE, all the LEAs, and individual school levels will work with families and embrace a more positive approach to promoting attendance.