Showing up every day makes a difference

The Importance of School Attendance

Did you know that about one in 10 children in kindergarten and first grade are absent from school more than nine days a school year? It’s a serious problem – these kids are missing too much instructional time that’s essential for learning to read, and it’s hard to make up for that loss. That’s why the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, led by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has made reducing school absence a pillar of their recommendations for improving third grade reading outcomes for all children. Research shows that the number of school absences in kindergarten and first grade is tied closely to whether a child reads on grade level at the end of third grade. The numbers are clear: only 48 percent of children who miss more than nine days each year read on grade level; only 17 percent of children missing 18 or more days each year achieve that goal. Click here for more details on the statistics.

There are several main reasons that children are absent from school:

  1. illness
  2. transportation challenges
  3. family religious observances
  4. family mindset, habits and routines

Of course, the occasional absence is reasonable and won’t harm a child’s learning in the long term. And children who are sick should definitely stay home. However, it’s very important to see a doctor, complete any treatment prescribed and follow recommendations on when to go back to school. For children with ongoing health problems, like asthma and tooth decay (two of the biggest causes of school absence), treatment and a prevention and management plan are critical for health, school attendance and learning. Nearly all childhood medical conditions can be managed well through proactive monitoring, communication with doctors and nurses, follow-up on treatment and a quick return to school when ready.

A big part of regular, on-time school attendance depends on parents having the mindset that school is important, and developing habits and routines around this priority. Starting with preschool, regular attendance establishes school and learning as priorities for everyone, and just a natural part of daily life. The more often your child misses school, the harder it is to get back into the routine.

Here’s how to establish and stick to a daily school routine, starting in preschool:

  1. Build a regular bedtime routine that insures enough sleep for you and your child.
  2. Know when school starts each year and have your child there from Day 1, on time.
  3. Plan out clothing, breakfast and lunch the evening before.
  4. Talk about how important it is to go every day to school and show your child that you also go to school or work every day (except weekends and holidays!).
  5. Don’t let your child miss school unless he is truly sick.
  6. If your child seems to want to avoid school, talk with the teacher about any learning or social problems and develop a plan to address them.
  7. Have a transportation backup plan.
  8. Include special surprises occasionally on school days, such as a special breakfast, lunch treat or note.