The first rule of school success? Go to class!

Consistent attendance plays a key role in student success. And that’s true whether it’s a child starting kindergarten or a young adult in college.

Research indicates that students who miss more than 10 percent of school are at risk of academic failure.

Skipping class is typically a problem associated with high school and college.  But the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University is trying to raise awareness about the problem of absenteeism in the early elementary grades.

Attendance Affects Test Scores
Marion City Schools research shows that attendance is directly related to results on the Ohio Achievement Test (OAT) for Reading. For example, of those children that:

  • attended school 100% of the time, 83% rated proficient or above;
  • attended 99-93% of the time, about 9 missed days, 79% rated proficient or above;
  • attended 93-86% of the time, about 18 missed days, 67% rated proficient or above;
  • attended less than 86% of the time, more than 25 missed days, 60% rated proficient or above.

Number of missed days based on 182 school days.

Their research shows:

  • Nationwide, 1 out of 10 kindergartners and first-graders are absent more than 10 percent of the time.
  • Children who miss more than 10 percent of kindergarten — that would mean 18 days in a standard 180-day school year — have significantly lower math and reading scores in first grade compared to students who are absent less than six days.
  • Among poor children, chronic absenteeism in kindergarten predicts lower test scores in fifth grade.
  • Sixth-graders with severe chronic absenteeism are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as students who regularly attend school.
  • By ninth grade, missing 20 percent of school is a better predictor of dropping out than test scores.

Advice for Parents

The center also has advice for parents. Among its tips for families on promoting good attendance:

  • Establish and stick to the basic routines — such as going to bed early and waking up on time — that will help children develop the habit of on-time attendance.
  • Talk to children about why going to school every day is important unless they are sick. If a child seems reluctant to go to school, find out why and work with the teacher, administrator or after-school provider to get him or her excited about going to school.
  • Come up with backup plans for who can help get the child to school if something comes up, such as another child gets sick or the car breaks down. Enlist the aid of another family member, a neighbor or fellow parents.
  • Reach out for help if you are experiencing transportation issues, housing problems, loss of a job or illness that make it difficult to get the child to school. Other parents, your child’s teacher, principal, social worker, school nurse, after-school providers or community agencies can help problem-solve or connect your family to a needed resource.
  • If a child is absent, work with the teacher to make sure she or he has an opportunity to learn and make up for the academics missed.

Parents of children with good attendance also can play a role by inquiring about the system used by their school to monitor and address chronic absenteeism, and pushing for change if necessary. Those parents should recognize that all students suffer when teachers have to spend time and energy on students who miss substantial amounts of school, the poverty center says.

The center points out that paying attention to attendance is key to U.S. education reform.

“Students have to be present and engaged to learn,” the study says. “We can work together early on to ensure families get their children to class consistently or we can pay later for failing to intervene before problems are more difficult and costly to ameliorate.”

What Parents Can Do

  • Let your child know that you expect her to attend school every day. Explain that, just as you have a job, it’s her job to go to school and learn.
  • Set a time for doing homework each evening and a time for going to bed. Unfinished homework and too little sleep are common reasons why parents hear the words, “I don’t feel good,” on school mornings.
  • Get involved with your child’s school. When she sees you in the halls or the classrooms she’ll understand that school is important.

Some information was excerpted from an article by Julie Mack | Kalamazoo Gazette, September 7, 2010