Author’s Note: September is Attendance Awareness Month
Attendance is to school what rebounding is to basketball—it is hard work, requires effort and persistence, and it often goes unrewarded and unrecognized, but schools cannot be successful without it. Improving school attendance is a matter of will. It requires a multi-pronged effort over several years to break the culturally supported cycle. Even the best schools have a significant number of students who are chronically absent.
Good school attendance, particularly in high-needs schools is more about attracting students than about promoting attendance. While having the right attendance laws and procedures in place are important in the short-run. In the long-run, a school must create a safe, orderly, and student-centered school culture that attracted students.
- Our school had to become a place where students felt wanted and where they wanted to be.
- We had to be a school in which every student expected to succeed every day.
- We had to be the kind of school in which each and every student was both known and valued.
- We had to be the kind of school that students wanted to attend and hated to leave.
- We had to be a school that had to work to get students to leave the building at the end of the day, not one that had to work to get students to attend.
To be that school, we had to provide a safe, clean, orderly, warm and inviting school environment built on quality relationships. In addition, we had to create a culture of success in which students came to school expecting to succeed while knowing that their teachers would not stand bye and allow them to fail.
We learned from experience that when kids miss school they miss out, and when kids miss out, we all suffer. In our school, attendance, along with school wide literacy, was a priority. We served large numbers of under-resourced students who needed extra support and encouragement in order to attend school on a regular basis.