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Winchester Public Schools recognize Attendance Awareness Month

28 September 2016 News

Winchester, VA – The Winchester Public School Board  adopted a proclamation at its September 12 Board meeting announcing September as Attendance Awareness Month in Winchester.  Winchester Public Schools has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September and has pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.

wpslogoThe Winchester Public School Board recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows that this is the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance.

Nationally, 5 million to 7.5 million miss nearly a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year.  Chronic absence as early as preschool or kindergarten predicts lower 3rd grade reading scores.  By middle school it’s a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school.

Chronic absence disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools.  This is not just a matter of truancy.  Many children, especially in early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves – barriers that city agencies and community partners can help families address.

Dr. Van Heukelum stated, “Attendance is the first step to success in school. Our students must be present in order to be fully engaged academically and socially. With this in mind, we must work diligently to make school a place kids want to be. Through engaging and relevant programing and exciting lessons that are inquiry based, we can change the reputation that school is boring and something to endure. Certainly, students and families have a role to play in making school a priority, but we, too, must embrace the 21st century and commit to making school an exciting, daily experience for kids.”

This September, schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses andothers around the nation are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, map local attendance gaps and work with community partners to improve school attendance starting as soon as children enter school.

“September is a particularly good time to focus on attendance,” said Hedy Change, director of Attendance Works, a national nonprofit dedicated to improve school attendance.  “Research shows that students who miss two to four days in the first month of school are more likely to become chronically absent during the school year.  By paying attention to absences early in the school year and early in a child’s academic career, we can turn around attendance and achievement.”

Winchester has been monitoring absences daily since August 9th and reaching out to children and families to help decrease the number of children who are chronically absent this school year.  At each school building, there will be increased awareness and discussions.

During Attendance Awareness Month, we are asking school leaders, community advocates, parents and students to act upon these critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism in their schools:

  • Build a habit and a culture of regular attendance
  • Use data to monitor when chronic absence is a problem, and
  • Identify and solve barriers to getting children to school.

Study after study shows that chronic absence is an early warning indicator that a student will drop out of high school.  A recent study from Utah found that a student who was chronically absent in any year between eighth and twelfth grade was 7.4 times more likely to drop out than students with better attendance.  We can turn the tide on chronic absenteeism by making it a priority, driving with data and using positive supports to engage families and students in showing up to school every day.

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