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Miss School–Miss Out! 

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September is School Attendance Awareness Month, and what a great choice of month this is. Why? School is still in its first month (typically schools have been in session since mid-August), and, according to Attendance Works, “Absenteeism in the first month of school can predict poor attendance throughout the school year. Half the students who miss two to four days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school.” So, it’s the perfect time to really emphasize the importance of getting to and staying in school for the entire instructional day.

Truancy, or the act of being absent without valid reason, is not just an issue with older students. Surprisingly, at elementary schools, missed attendance in the earlier grades surpasses that of older students. “One in ten kindergarten and first grade students are chronically absent.” Chronic absence is defined as 10 percent of the school year or roughly 18 days a year. One to two days a month quickly totals up to that 18 days. And kindergarten and first grade aren’t what they used to be.

In an era gone by, students in kindergarten brought rugs to school for nap time. Graham crackers and milk were a daily ritual. And sometimes the curriculum of the day focused on learning to tie lace-up shoes. Now, young students are actively learning how to read and write in these early grades. Missing school means missing some of the fundamental building blocks of these important life skills. And it doesn’t matter if the absence is “excused” or not. Lost time in the classroom is the major culprit identified in those 3rd graders who are unable to read at grade level, and this, in turn, is a powerful predictor for dropping out of high school.

For those actively parenting school-aged children:

If your child is telling you he/she is sick, be sure there isn’t another issue afoot: fear of a test or someone pestering him/her at school or the lure of watching TV at home rather than being at school. Only keep children at home if they are truly ill. And if they are ill, send siblings to class, even though it is inconvenient. Have a parent “buddy” walk, drive, or put your healthy children on the bus while you stay home with a sick child.

Work hard to make dentist, doctor and other appointments outside of the school day. If you must make an appointment during the school day, be sure your child attends class before and after the appointment.

For those of us not parenting at present:

Think about mentoring a youngster at a local school. “Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school.” (From National Mentoring Partnership)

If you are an employer, think about using the employee work room to hang posters supportive of attendance at school to encourage those who work with you to make their children’s attendance at school a priority. Look at Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Destination Graduation website for such posters: http://www.stancoe.org/scoe/admin/destination-grad/

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