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September Was Attendance Awareness Month

Art via "Alphabet F And Graduates Owl" by Theeradech Sanin via

I have covered Attendance Awareness Month in the past with the help of local organizations and I believe this is something to pay attention to. Grand Rapids Michigan Herald Review recently published this for their community regarding Attendance Awareness Month.  Whether it's September, October or January, please educate yourself on the importance of regular attendance at school because absenteeism affects everyone in the classroom, including the teacher. The less your child is there, the less he/she knows and the lower the grade because they miss key moments of education regarding new material. One thing you can think about is reorganizing family vacations to coincide with school planned time off so that your child stays in school more. While we cannot avoid childhood illnesses which prevent kids from being ins school, we can make other efforts to get them there.  Read more below from an article I wrote for County Kids News-Herald Ohio.

What High School Dropout Rates & Reading Readiness Have in Common

There are several factors that go into the success of learning. One of them is reading.
At the beginning of the school year many parents of small children will receive a large packet of material from their child’s teacher informing them of all the ways the class will be practicing their reading skills. The information distributed will usually list a few of the tasks they will do as a class, as well as what parents should be doing with them at home.
This is great because we need to know what to do to help our kids do their best. Unfortunately, what is not a part of those packets (and so isn’t a focus) is attendance.

According to many studies, it’s not enough to help our children with homework or keep them caught up with classroom assignments. Keeping them in school is a major part of that. Did you know that missing just 10% of the total time a child is supposed to be in school can severely affect their reading ability and has the risk of causing other problems?

The Cleveland Literacy Cooperative has been working together with the United Way to help raise awareness through efforts both behind the scenes and in the community to help parents realize how vitally important it is to keep kids in school regularly.

For most of us, we probably do not consider our child chronically absent, but remember, only 10% of their time has to be missed for the effects to begin taking root. For decades we have considered school necessary, and we understand attendance has to be every day because it’s mandatory under the truancy laws, but actually, there is a lot more to attendance than this.

Chronic absenteeism affects kids on both the long and short-term scale. Children in the early stages of reading need to be in school regularly because they are learning specific steps, and each day the lessons are directly connected to the day before, and the day after. Skipping just one day of school can really affect learning, understanding and/or catching up on the material, leaving gaps in their reading ability. By third grade, if children haven’t mastered reading, their chances of reading proficiently drop significantly.

As for older kids, like in the middle grades and high school, a relaxed approach to school attendance can create an attitude like this one: ‘I don’t need to be in school today, I can do the work tomorrow’. Whereas, before you know it, that seemingly harmless stage builds up to them dropping out of school because they are struggling to keep up academically. Did you know that dropping out of high school is not an overnight process? It is actually a gradual progression of not attending. Students don’t generally just wake up one day and decide to quit college. Instead, they slowly work their way there by not attending a class once in a while. Fast forward… this intermittent attendance spills over into their adult life, becoming a problem at their job.

What if our child is the one receiving the Perfect Attendance Award each quarter? Do we need to worry? Probably not, but there might be classmates (your neighbor’s children possibly) who aren’t always getting to school for whatever reason; it could be because low-income issues prevent them from having a vehicle or there are other problems in the home. You might be able to help them by providing transportation or if you walk your children to school, take them along with you.

Other ways you can help are to make school attendance a strong focus at home and join the national initiative by following the Literacy Cooperative on Facebook: and visit their website to learn more about 3rd Grade Level Reading and why it matters.

A side-note for those families who take annual vacations and who usually take kids out of school for them: you may want to calculate how much time they are missing in class. While the number of days probably doesn’t add up to much at the time, consider all those other days they might be absent from school. Your children very well could be missing more days than you realize due to illnesses, doctor or specialist appointments, and other things that prevent them from being in attendance. It all adds up.

Oh, and by the way, that dropout rate? Check this out-By 9th grade, if a student is missing just 20% of the school year, that is a better predictor of them dropping out than their test scores are. Mind-blowing.

-January 2014

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