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Superintendent's Bulletin

The Importance of School Attendance

“Do as I say, not as I do” just does not work.  Our children learn and act as we do.  September is Attendance Awareness Month.  What are your children learning about the importance of regular school attendance? 


Here at CUSD we talk frequently about the importance of “Bell-to-Bell” instruction.  Learning takes time, and we want to send a message to students that learning is important.  Our efforts to maximize instructional time send a signal that there is no time to waste during the learning day.  We know that students have lower overall achievement in classrooms where time is not used efficiently.  Students who miss school, naturally, also have lower achievement.  One year, long ago when I was teaching, I went through all my gradebooks and correlated absences with grades.  Students who missed more than 15 days of my class failed the class 90% of the time.  All my “A” students had fewer than 5 non-school absences.  Since then, as an administrator, I have repeatedly seen evidence that student attendance has a direct impact on grades.  Research on the relationship between learning time and achievement is clear; more learning time means higher achievement.  That is why after school and summer school programs help students learn – they simply have more time to learn.


As parents, I think we all try to send the right messages.  We tell our children that school is important and education is valuable.  However, I have seen many situations where parental actions did not match their words.  As a teacher, some years back, I had a student who left class to accompany her parent on a trip to the tattoo parlor.  Many times, I had students tell me they were leaving to go on various errands with parents.  In those cases, it appeared to me that the parents were sending a clear message that school was less important than clothes shopping, housecleaning, or getting a tattoo. 



I think it important to point out here that school-related absences have overwhelmingly positive effects on grades and learning.  Student athletes are learning about discipline, time management, and motivation on the field or court.  Those skills transfer directly to the classroom, and we find that athletes rarely have issues with learning, grades or achievement.   Similarly, the experiences of students participating in FFA, or FBLA actually enhance learning and achievement despite any missed classes.  Sponsors and coaches push students to compensate for absences with additional time completing homework and self-directed study. 


Valuable learning certainly occurs outside the schoolhouse doors.  A once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity, a shared family experience, or helping out during a time of crisis, teaches young people lessons we cannot match in school.  But, particularly during the younger years, parental attitudes about school attendance are important.  Please help your student by being thoughtful about when you allow them to miss school.  Parents are invaluable in helping build the habits necessary for academic success.  As you think about all the experiences available to young people today, please send a message that school attendance is a top priority.

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