Attendance at school is essential to academic success, but far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent – described as missing 10 percent of the school year for any reason, excused or unexcused. Nationally, one in 10 students miss nearly a month of school. When students miss too many days of school, they fall behind and struggle to keep up with their classmates.
Bridging Richmond, a partnership working with local school districts to improve the Richmond region’s attendance rates, recommends these tips for parents to help children attend school regularly:
1. Schedule medical, dental and other appointments before or after school.
2. Don’t let your child stay home unless he/she is truly sick. Keep in mind complaints of a stomach ache or headache may be anxiety and not a reason to stay home.
3. Set a regular bedtime and morning routine.
4. Prepare clothes and backpacks the night before.
5. Find out if your child feels safe from bullies and other threats.
6. Encourage your child to participate in sports, clubs and other quality afterschool activities.
7. Keep a chart recording your child’s attendance home. At the end of the week, talk with your child about what you see.
8. Stay on top of your child’s social contacts. Peer pressure can lead to skipping school.
9. Ask for help from school officials, afterschool programs, other parents or community agencies if you’re having trouble getting your child to school.
10. 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.
Chronic absenteeism is widespread, but it disproportionately affects children from low-income families, creating attendance issues that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools. This is not just a matter of truancy. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation, a lack of safety, or unstable housing — barriers that local community partners can help families address.
“Absences impact everything in school from academic growth to social growth, from SOLs to graduation rates. Richmond Public Schools is playing a lead role in this priority area because daily school attendance is a critical component in basic student achievement regardless of zip code. We have much to contribute and learn from being part of a multi-sector network addressing this issue regionally,” said Dr. Dana Bedden, Richmond Public Schools superintendent.
During National Attendance Awareness Month, Bridging Richmond is asking the community – including school leaders, community advocates, employers, parents and students – to work together to stem chronic absenteeism.
“This matters to all of us, not just those with school-age children,” said Jason Smith, Executive Director of Bridging Richmond. “Each day employers lose productivity when employees are home with absent students. Our future economic competitiveness as a region depends on our youth developing positive attendance behaviors and gaining the knowledge and skills needed to obtain industry certifications, degrees and be ready for career and civic life.”
For more information about local attendance awareness efforts and how you can help students succeed, visit www.BridgingRichmond.com.