CIS pushes student attendance in Richmond County

EverySchoolDay2Communities in Schools of Richmond County has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September and has pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.

CIS recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success. Unfortunately, far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days-–for any reason, excused or unexcused. At that point, research reveals that absenteeism begins to affect student performance.

Nationally, as many as one out of 10 students miss 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences every year. Yet, too often chronic absence remains a hidden problem because schools track only average daily attendance and truancy (unexcused absences). Chronic absence frequently predicts lower third grade reading proficiency, course failure and eventual dropout. The impact hits low-income students particularly hard, especially if they don’t have the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom and are more likely to face barriers to getting to school—such as unreliable transportation or chronic health issues.

“This matters to all of us, not just those with school-age children,” Richmond County CIS Executive Director Fallon Brewington said. “When our schools graduate more students on time, our communities and our economy are stronger because we have more people who are prepared for the workplace and in our community’s civic life.”

This September, schools, city and county agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others around the nation are coming together to deliver the message that every school day counts. They are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, dig deeper into attendance data and work with community partners to improve school attendance beginning as soon as children enter school.

“Improving student attendance is a real focus for us this year,” said Richmond County Schools Superintendent Cindy Goodman. “New research links excessive absences to poor student achievement. We hope parents will partner with us in our efforts to have every student in class every day.”

During Attendance Awareness Month, CIS asks school leaders, community advocates, parents and students to act upon these critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism in their schools:

  • Build a habit and a culture of regular attendance
  • Use data to monitor when chronic absence is a problem, and
  • Identify and solve barriers to getting children to school

Study after study shows that chronic absence is an early warning indicator that a student will drop out of a high school. A recent study from Utah found that a student who was chronically absent in any year between eighth and twelfth grade was 7.4 times more likely to drop out than students with better attendance.

While chronic absenteeism is generally considered a high school problem, research proves that poor attendance is also a concern among our youngest students. One in 10 kindergarten and first grade students nationwide miss nearly a month of school each year. In some cities, the rate is as high as one in four elementary students. In some schools, chronic absence affects 50 percent of all of the students. Once large numbers of children are chronically absent, there is often a decrease in classroom learning because teachers must reteach material.

“We can turn the tide on chronic absenteeism by making it a priority, driving with data and using positive supports to engage families and students in showing up to school every day,” Brewington said.

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