The Ponca City Public Schools is kicking off a community-wide Attendance Awareness Month in order to educate the community regarding the issues that stem from chronic absenteeism. The month of October has been set aside as Attendance Awareness Month. The PCPS system invites the community, parents, and students to join us in learning more about the importance of regular attendance. We also challenge parents/guardians and students to “Be Present, Be Engaged, Be Accounted for” throughout the school year.
Chronic absenteeism is becoming a problem that plagues school districts throughout the nation. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing too much school for any reason, excused or unexcused, including suspensions. AttendanceWorks.org recommends defining it as missing 10 percent or more of school or about 18 days a year. If parents/guardians think missing a day here or there will not matter, think again. By missing just one day every two weeks a student would be on track to miss 10 percent of the school year. Missing days add up quickly and the negative effect it has on students and schools is serious.
What Does the Research Say?
As many as 7.5 million students are chronically absent nationwide. That includes one in 10 kindergarten students. Also by 6th grade, chronic absence is a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school. Put simply, if students don’t go to school they cannot benefit from what is taught in the classroom. This is as true for kindergarten students as it is for high school Students. Students who attend school regularly are more likely to graduate and find jobs. In fact, a high school graduate makes, on average, $1 million more than a dropout over a lifetime.
What Parents/Guardians Can Do?
- Set a regular bed time and morning routine.
- Lay out clothes and pack backpacks the night before.
- Keep a school calendar posted in your home.
- Introduce your child to his/her teachers and classmates before school starts to help their transition.
- Discuss the importance of regular attendance with your child.
- Do not let your child stay home unless he/she is truly sick. Keep in mind complaints of a stomach ache or headache can be a sign of anxiety and not a reason to stay home.
- If your child seems anxious about going to school, talk to teachers, school counselors, or other parents for advice on how to make her feel comfortable and excited about learning.
- Develop back-up plans for getting to school if something comes up regarding transportation. Call on a family member, a neighbor, or another parent.
- Avoid medical appointments and extended trips when school is in session.
What Can the Community Can Do?
- Health care providers can address chronic illness, such as asthma, and reinforce the importance of school attendance at children’s annual checkups.
- Afterschool providers can help build a culture of attendance, reach out to chronically absent students and provide enriching activities that motivate students to show up for school.
- Faith-based groups can volunteer to help parents and mentor at-risk students.
- Businesses can donate incentives for improved attendance and share the message with their employees. Media partners can spread the word about the importance of good attendance.
Whether or not children have the opportunity to reach their potential depends, in part, on whether they are regularly present at school, starting in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, so they can learn the concepts they need to be prepared for the next grade level and beyond.