Every school in the United States has some type of attendance policy. Whether it is excusing absences or not, the expectation is that students attend school for the majority of the days to pass their classes and move forward in grade. But it’s easy to wonder why attendance matters? After all, many students still pass all of their assignments and tests, even when they miss school? What is the value of enforcing an attendance policy if most kids will easily demonstrate their knowledge of the content even when they aren’t in school?
As a teacher, one of my least favorite things is having to enforce an attendance policy on students who clearly understand the information.
There has to be a reason that attendance matters, and in this article, we’re going to unpack the top reasons why attendance matters to student’s education.
What is Attendance?
The most basic definition of attendance is the number of days that a student attends school (or class) in a school year. Just like a job, there are permissible reasons to miss school (like a doctor’s appointment or preplanned vacation).
There are specific inexcusable reasons to miss school, though. These include ditching class, not preapproving the absence, or missing an important day of school (for example, not preplanning a day you’d miss an important exam).
Every school in every state differs on their attendance policy, so it’s important to learn the rules of your child’s school to make sure you understand the attendance policy clearly.
Often, attendance policies can feel arbitrary, especially in the public school system. This is because unless a student missing the majority of the school days, there is no real penalty for missing school. Parents and guardians generally can excuse a student for any reason, and there are no consequences for missing school (they might receive a late grade on an assignment, but otherwise, they will be able to attend school still).
If attendance policies are in place but don’t carry a lot of weight, what is the point of even caring about them?
Why is Attendance Important?
Attendance rates are statistics that help the state (and the community) understand if students in your neighborhood are experiencing academic success. This is valuable information to have if you are moving to a new area or if you are getting ready to enroll your child in school for the first time.
Low attendance numbers (lower than the district, state, or national average) let you know that, on average, students attend classes less than other schools. Low attendance rates could mean lower test scores and graduation rates, which could mean less funding and fewer resources in the classroom.
Good Attendance Helps Build in Continuity
When a child regularly attends school, they are more likely to understand what they are learning more clearly. Think about it like this: Let’s say you are reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The first day, you read a few chapters and enjoy it a lot. The next day, you open the book and start reading from page 150. You skip over 100 pages of the book.
The entire time you’re wondering how Scout met Boo, and why their dad is preparing for a court case because you missed a decent portion of the novel that would’ve answered these questions for you.
Attendance in school is a lot the same. When a student regularly misses school, they miss the links that connect what they are learning together.
This can be a minor issue or a major issue, depending on which classes they are missing. For many students, a missed class the loss of information since they might not go into their teacher during their freedom to recapture the information that they missed.
Seat Time= Higher Grades
The idea of seat time is how often a student is in class; basically, it’s attendance. Seat time naturally equals higher grades, and there are a few reasons for this correlation.
First, if a student is in class, they will understand the information more clearly.
Then, they will be able to turn work in on time and earn credit for in-class activities (which, in turn, means they are most likely learning and retaining more information).
Finally, their teacher is there to help when they need it. This means that if something is unclear, they can raise their hand, conference with their teacher, and move forward. When they miss class, they have to collect their missing work, work on it, go to their teacher for help, work on it again, submit it, get the grade back, and then ask for more help if needed.
When a student misses a class, it overcomplicates a very simple process. And their overall grade will suffer.
Attendance Helps Build Better Adults
It’s always important to consider how these basic things, like good attendance, are helping to shape students for their future.
Many colleges have a strict attendance policy that will forcefully remove a student from the roster if they miss too many classes.
If they miss work too many times, they will either be put on a performance plan or even be fired.
There are numerous times where attendance is mandatory, including jury duty (or in a court appearance). Failure to attend results in arrests.
A lot of times, attendance feels arbitrary, but when they become adults, they will be expected to attend many things that feel arbitrary that have more severe consequences if they don’t go.
Studies show that attendance in Kindergarten and 1st grade is usually an indicator of overall academic performance throughout a student’s career. It is vital to set the tone as early as possible, so students understand that attendance is important. That way, they will be more likely to have good attendance in their adulthood.
How Can Students Improve Their Attendance?
Poor attendance can sometimes feel like a vicious cycle. It is hard to watch students who want to improve their grades and comprehension, but when they feel like they’re drowning, they shut down and miss school.
Attendance should be considered a non-negotiable part of the school experience, and students need help prioritizing it. That’s why we have compiled the best tips to encourage attendance (and improve grades in the process!).
Essential Questions to Ask When Touring a School
Parents and schools need to work together to encourage attendance. So whether you are enrolling your child for the first time or transferring into a new school, there are some questions that you should ask to understand how the school prioritizes attendance.
Questions that you should ask include:
- How does the school follow up with students when they are gone?
- What is your attendance policy?
- How do you discern between an excusable absence and inexcusable?
- Do teachers communicate with parents when children are absent?
- Does the school reward high attendance?
- How does the school address chronic attendance problems? (This should be for individual students as well as the school as a whole.)
- Does the school have a positive relationship with local law enforcement, businesses, and other members of the community?
- What should I be doing to encourage good attendance in my child?
These questions are important regardless is the school has a good attendance rate or not. Clearly understand the expectations and the role that the school is going to play in your child’s educational success.
Having all of this information will let you know if the school is a good fit, but also where your part will be to encourage your child’s success in school.
Support Kids at Home
Of course, schools are not wholly responsible for enforcing attendance, and so there are many things that you should be doing at home to encourage your child to attend school.
Establish consistent habits to help your child get to school regularly. Enforce an early bedtime on school nights, provide healthy breakfast options, and establish a time in the morning that they must be ready for the day.
Find the sticky points that cause your child not to want to go to school and solve the problem. Do they not understand the work, so they don’t want to go? Pick up a resource, like an ArgoPrep workbook, to help them understand more clearly.
Are they being bullied? Meet with administrators to address the problem.
Do they stay up too late playing video games? Take technology away around 9:00 pm.
Remember, as the parent; you are allowed to enforce expectations around your child going to school. Even if they’re kicking and screaming, they should still be going to school.
How to Deal with Chronic Attendance Problems
Studies show that a student who misses at least two days per month of school is considered to have chronic absences. By 6th grade, chronic absences are a high indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
As a teacher, I have seen students who have missed 70 days of a semester, and then still try to pass the class. I understand that there is missing school and then there is missing school.
As a parent, it can feel hopeless to try and get a student who hasn’t been to school in over a month to go and stay in their classes.
Working with your child, their teachers, and the administration, create a plan to get them back into school and back on track. Understand that this will feel like an uphill battle because they will not only be trying to attend class regularly but also catching up with missed work.
Set time aside each day for at-home work, take away privileges, and offer rewards for consistent behavior.
Much like getting in shape for a marathon, small, consistent changes will lend itself to new habits, and soon your child will be back in school regularly.
There is a lot of value in prioritizing attendance, especially when it comes to the overall success of a student.
As a parent or guardian, there are certain things to consider when preparing for your student to attend school. These include:
- How does a school enforce good attendance?
- Is the school at or above the average for daily attendance?
Attendance is important because it will help a student feel up-to-date in class, which increases overall understanding.
If your child is consistently missing school, consider implementing daily routines to help address the stick points that keep them home. Then, address any issues with understanding the school work with a supplemental workbook from ArgoPrep.
- Free delivery to your home
- 30,000+ Practice Questions
- 500+ Video Lectures
- 15,000+ Video Explanations
- Printable Worksheets and Games
If you are struggling with getting your child to school, take comfort that it is a common problem, but one that can be improved. By holding your ground and establishing positive habits in your home, your child can go to school more regularly and see success!
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