Schools focus on attendance

By RANDY FULLER / Guest Columnist

The beginning of each school year is the best time to encourage students and parents to remember the importance of making school attendance a top priority. As a result, September has been proclaimed “Alabama Attendance Awareness Month” by the Alabama State Department of Education. The proclamation coincides with a national campaign designed to increase awareness and understanding among parents, students, and community partners that school attendance has a direct impact on student success rates, both academically and behaviorally.
A recent study released by the national organization, Attendance Works, evaluated the connection between chronic absenteeism and student achievement on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Students who missed three or more days of school during the month prior to NAEP testing experienced a drop in reading scores as great as 14 points and up to a 17 point drop in math scores. This relationship between attendance and achievement can appear early in a student’s school career and have a major impact in the high-school grades and beyond. For example, The National Center for Education Statistics reports a direct correlation between chronic absenteeism in first-graders and heightened high-school dropout rates. The NCES web report states, “These differences in absentee rates were observed as early as kindergarten, and students who eventually dropped out of high school missed significantly more days of school in first grade than their peers who graduated from high school.”
Shelby County Schools understands the importance of students maintaining a good attendance record and the correlation between attendance and achievement. We believe consistent school attendance is a key component to maintaining student success. We track and study each school’s attendance rates and I am pleased to report that every school in our school district reported a year-end attendance rate well into the 90th percentile for the 2013-2014 school year. We are also off to a great start for the 2014-2015 school year with all schools reporting first month attendance rates in the 95th percentile or above.
I’d like to thank our teachers and administrators for providing welcoming and engaging learning environments for our students to enjoy each day. I also thank our parents for making learning a priority by ensuring their students are arriving to school on time and are attending school every day they are able. Every school day counts toward the success of a student’s academic life. Together we can continue to implement effective attendance strategies to ensure the success of Shelby County’s students.
Randy Fuller is the superintendent of the Shelby County School System.