September as Attendance Awareness Month

Dear Parents, Guardians and Community Members:

The opening days of school conjure up images of backpacks stuffed with notebooks and unsharpened pencils, bulletin boards freshly decorated by teachers, and students connecting with old and new friends.

But even in the early days of the new school year, some students already are heading toward academic trouble: they are missing too many days of school. Across the country, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year – absences that can correlate with poor performance at every grade level.

This trend starts as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributing to achievement gaps and ultimately to dropout rates. During the 2012-2013 school year there were more than 45,000 days of missed instruction in the Fulton City School District.

This year, our school district is recognizing September as Attendance Awareness Month, part of a nationwide movement intended to convey the message that every school day counts.

We can’t afford to think of absenteeism as simply an administrative matter. Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve schools. All of our investments in curriculum and instruction won’t amount to much if students aren’t showing up to benefit from them.

Chronic absence can have consequences throughout a child’s academic career. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, and students who don’t read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school. They are also more likely to be chronically absent in later years, since they never developed good attendance habits.

By middle school, chronic absence becomes one of the leading indicators that a child will drop out of high school. By ninth grade, it’s a better indicator than how well a student did on eighth grade tests.

Chronic absence isn’t just about truancy or willfully skipping school. Instead, children stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, avoiding negative social interactions, or simply because their parents don’t understand how quickly absences add up – and affect school performance.

After all, 18 days is only two days a month in a typical school year. This is true whether absences are excused or unexcused, whether they come consecutively or sporadically throughout the school year.

So how do we turn this around?

The Fulton City School District has made good attendance a high priority. A key step is letting families know about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day. We will positively reinforce students who meet or exceed our attendance goal of being present and on time at least 90% of the time or more or show improvement in their attendance rates.

We ask that businesses, faith leaders and community volunteers also convey the message that coming to school each day, arriving on time and staying all day is critical to each student’s success.

Our schools can’t do this alone. We’re calling on the whole community to help.

Please consider what you can do within your own family and your own neighborhood to
help get more kids to school.

The Fulton City School District will host an “It’s Cool 2B in School – Every Day Counts” kickoff event on September 15 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Voorhees Park (across from the Fulton Education Center on South Fourth Street). There will be games, activities and fun for the whole family.

Please join us at this event, and throughout the school year in our effort to make every day count.


William Lynch