Letter to Parents Regarding School Attendance

I’m writing this as an appeal to all parents asking that you ensure your children are in school every day. Absences from the classroom add up and can impact your child in a negative way especially when it comes to academic performance. Research just completed shows that students living in low-income homes in particular achieve at a much lower rate than their classroom peers when they miss too much school.

As I write this in early October, we have only been in school four weeks and already 300 students have missed two or more days of school. At that rate, those students could miss at least eighteen days or more by June. Poor attendance in the first month of school is a predictor of chronic absence for the entire school year, and students who are chronically absent, especially at the lower elementary grades, experience many difficulties in school. Here are some findings from the most recent research:

  • Absenteeism in kindergarten prevents a child from developing the “grit and perseverance” needed to persist and engage in learning as it becomes harder over time.
  • Absenteeism in kindergarten can influence whether a child will be held back in third grade because it undermines the effort to improve reading skills.
  • Absenteeism in middle and high school can predict whether a student will eventually drop out of school. As early as the 6th grade, absenteeism can be a dropout indicator especially if they lead to poor grades in core courses and behaviors that lead to suspensions.
  • Absenteeism patterns in K-12 also impact negatively on whether a college student successfully completes their first year of college.

Improving attendance can help reduce achievement gaps your child may be experiencing compared to others in the class. In Chicago and New York, they found that by reducing chronic absenteeism more students stayed in school through graduation. Even those students who start the school year with the weakest skills but attend regularly showed greater gains in learning than their classroom peers.

Any student who is on track to missing ten percent of the school year (18 days) is considered in our district to be a chronic absentee. Principals, counselors and teachers will be in touch with you if your child has a pattern of missing too many days. As parents, you have a responsibility to ensure your child is in school so that he or she will have the best possible opportunity to succeed academically, socially and emotionally. We’ll be working with you as a team throughout the year to help overcome any reasons for chronic absenteeism.

Thank you!

About David Britten

Retired U.S. Army Officer, former elementary, middle and high school principal, currently serving as a public school superintendent.
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