With the start of October comes an important milestone for our students. Parent-Teacher and Career and Academic Planning conferences are underway this week, bringing families together with our teachers for updates on how students are progressing. I continue to be impressed with the number of parents who take an active role in their students’ lives and their willingness to work together to increase their young learners’ chances for success.

Over the course of the past few months, we have been examining the relationship between classroom attendance and student success. In each study, research shows that a strong predictor of overall student success is consistent classroom attendance.  

  • Studies demonstrate a correlation between missing at least 10 percent of classes in preschool, kindergarten or first grade and a reduction in reading proficiency by third grade.
  • There is a connection between third-graders who are not reading at grade level and increased high school dropout rates for those students later.
  • One year of chronic absenteeism in eighth grade or during high school dramatically increases the likelihood of student dropouts before graduation, which in turn has a long-term impact of limiting employment opportunities and earning potential.

Recent studies show the effects of absenteeism go beyond the individual student to the classroom. Research published in December 2016 highlights a potential achievement loss for a class based on chronic absences involving any students. Also, a greater proportion of chronically absent students in a class can lower the achievement results in both reading and math for the entire classroom.

Nationally, over 6.5 million students – or roughly one in seven children – missed at least 15 school days in 2013-14, with a significant absenteeism spike in high school grades. Kansas ranks 26th for chronic absences using data provided for that school year, and the numbers for USD 253 show that our district resembles the state at many grade levels.

We recognize there can be a variety of reasons why students miss class. Health or transportation issues, older students needed to help care for younger siblings, and financial concerns are just some of the possible reasons attendance can dip as the school year continues. We see the importance of using data to see how absenteeism affects our students and why pupils miss class. We also understand the need to involve parents in the conversation early in the process because parental involvement and support is vital for making sure our students reach their full potential.

Given the data, it’s easy to view high attendance rates as a foundational piece to the #KansansCan education vision. I urge our staff and parents to help make attendance at school a priority throughout the school year. Establishing consistent classroom attendance patterns early on helps our students prepare for postsecondary success by leveraging the learning opportunities and the social-emotional development that occur in our classrooms each day. Attending class also helps to ensure and provide all of our students access to a high-quality education from early childhood, which will enhance students’ opportunities for achievement throughout their school career at Emporia Public Schools and beyond high school.

I encourage all of us to recognize that simply being in class improves the chances of success our students can attain. Working together, we can greatly increase the opportunity for our students to achieve success.  

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