From the Superintendent's Standpoint
By Travis Miller
I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Roger Breed, Commissioner of Education for the State of Nebraska, speak about the importance of school attendance. In his comments, Dr. Breed discussed the negative impact student absenteeism has on student achievement as measured on the Nebraska State Assessment (NeSA) Tests in Reading. In particular I found the following information to be informative:
• Students in Grade 11 who missed less than 20 days of school during the 2009-2010 school year averaged a scale score of 102 on the state reading test.
• Students who missed more than 20 days of school averaged a scale score of 72 on the same test.
In layman’s terms, students who miss a lot of school tend to underperform academically compared to students with regular attendance.
In addition to the academic consequences, non-attendance in school also reduces opportunities for students to engage in social learning and character education. The social skills and strategies that are developed in school are often termed by businesses to be “soft skills.” Many businesses today are looking to employ people who have soft skills as wells as academic skills. In short, non-attendance in school likely has negative implications for career prospects well beyond the academic deficiencies that often result from non-attendance.
According to Dr. Breed, the mission of public schools in Nebraska is, “All students high school graduates, college and career ready.” If we are to achieve the mission for the schools of our state, school personnel, parents, and students will need to continue working to provide our students with the best possible educational opportunities.
Sometimes as parents we might wonder what our role is and how we can help. One of the best places to start is by working to ensure that our children attend school regularly and on time. The organization Attendance Works (www.attendanceworks.org) provides the following ideas for parents:
“1. Send your children to school every day, starting in kindergarten, to teach your children that attendance counts. Continue to monitor their attendance through high school
2. Don’t let your child miss school without a good reason. Try to avoid medical appointments during the school day or vacations when school is in session.
3. Create routines and stick to them. Set a regular bed time and morning routine to get ready for school. For older students, be sure they get enough sleep.
4. Keep an eye on what’s happening with your children’s education. Look for signs that they are bored, struggling with school work or having trouble with friends. Seek out tutoring, talk with teachers. Nurture interest in being in school by finding engaging afterschool activities and encourage involvement in sports.
5. Learn about the school’s policies. What incentives do teachers offer for good attendance? What counts as an excused or unexcused absence? What are the penalties?
6. Find your own ways to reward good attendance. You know best what motivates your child.
7. Be open and honest with school officials. Make sure the school has your up-to-date contact information. Work with the teacher, counselor and principal on problems your children are experiencing.
8. Seek medical help when absences pile up. Anything from asthma to a bad bout of head lice can keep kids out of school. Work with your doctor or school nurse.
9. Turn to other families who can help you with dropping off or picking up children and with babysitting.
10. Seek help when you have a problem. If absences result from family issue—a sudden illness, a lost job, foreclosure or a broken-down car—the school can connect you to other families or to social service providers.”
In addition to all of the positive benefits of school attendance, it is important to note that there is one additional reason for students to attend school: because it is the law. Under the compulsory attendance statutes, children are required to be in attendance regularly unless they are excused by a school administrator. If parents have questions about student attendance I would encourage them to speak to their student’s principal so that parents and the school can work together to promote learning for every student.
As always, if you would like to share success stories about Bayard Public Schools or if you have ideas about how we can work together to make our school even better, please call the school or send me an email.