By Daron VanderHeiden, Superintendent
Educators have known and research has proven that regular school attendance is critical to the academic success of students. Chronic absenteeism has also been proven to be the downfall of students leading to missing out on fundamental academic learning and the social and emotional skills kids need to be successful. Students need to feel confident about their ability to learn. Chronic absenteeism is one factor that leads to disengagement in school and ultimately results in school failure and a negative response to school and learning. Chronic absenteeism most often starts at an early age and continues to escalate as students get older. School attendance matters.
National studies comparing the reading level proficiency rate of third grade students show only 17% of students that are chronically absent are proficient; while the proficiency rate of students with good school attendance is 64%. School attendance matters.
Chronic absenteeism is the leading indicator of school dropouts by the time a student enters 6th grade. A high school student that misses ten or more days of school in a school year, is 25% less likely to enroll in post-secondary education. School attendance matters.
As I prepared to write this article, I contemplated the research and wondered if our students in Hutchinson followed these same patterns. Of the students that dropped out of school over the past five years, I could not find one case that was not associated with chronic absenteeism. In most cases (not all) it started in early elementary school and continued to get worse over time. I also reviewed academic results and found similar trends. Another disturbing pattern was our students that had excessive excused absences throughout their elementary years continued this pattern with unexcused absences as middle and high school students. School attendance matters.
There is good news! School attendance is something that we can fix by working together. As parents we can hold our children accountable and role model the importance of going to school everyday. If there is a specific issue with attending school other than being sick, it is best to work with the teacher and school staff to address the issue early on to make sure it does not lead to chronic absenteeism. There is a much greater probability that students will engage in school and their learning if they attend everyday, which will lead to greater academic success and self-confidence. Schools are great places for kids to learn and grow. School attendance matters.