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Dr. Joanne Meier

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Take note of chronic absences

September 16, 2013

This September marks the first-ever Attendance Awareness Month in schools and communities. Attendance Works, one sponsor of the month, is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success starting with school entry. According to their site, absences of as little as 10% can have a real impact on a child's achievement in elementary school. As kids get older, missing that much school (about 18 days a year, or 2-3 days per month) is strongly linked to course failure and even eventually dropping out of high school.

The attendance issue is particularly important for kids at risk. Students and families with health issues, transportation issues and unstable housing are particularly vulnerable to missing school. And, as teachers, we know how hard it is to help kids catch up once they've missed. Sustained, repeated absences make it even more difficult. Homework packets can help, but they cannot replace the real-time instruction teachers provide.

Attendance Works offers a helpful resource that includes some key attendance concepts and messages, as well as tips for talking to parents and what to say to students.

They also offer a Parent Engagement toolkit designed to support parent engagement at the school and community level. Within the toolkit you'll find materials to share with parents about attendance, and an interesting set of interactive exercises designed for working with groups of parents.

This first month of school is a great time to establish good attendance habits and to communicate the importance of making school a priority for families.


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"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl