Two days a month doesn’t seem like much at all. Between illnesses, doctors appointments and family obligations, it can seem unavoidable at times to have children out of school twice a month. Two days a month is only 18 days out of a whole school year, after all.
If you consider it a different way, however, two days a month, 18 days a year, works out to 10% of the school year. It’s the point at which a student is considered chronically absent, whether or not the absences are excused. Even one year of chronic absence can reduce a student’s chances for success in school and beyond. In Maine, over 15% of students are chronically absent.
The good news is that there is so much we can do, as educators, parents, and community members, to help our students make attendance a priority. It starts in the early elementary years where attendance is crucial to help students learn to read at grade level. In many of our schools, the literacy block is the first block of the day so even tardy arrivals can have an impact on a student’s ability to keep up in reading.
Making on-time attendance a priority in your student’s life can help them with more than just reading skills. It’s been proven to help students achieve better grades, feel more connected with their peers and teachers, develop important social skills and friendships, and it sets them up for a strong future. Parents can help make attendance a priority by avoiding appointments during the school day whenever possible, avoiding lengthy vacations during the school year, and keeping their students home only when they are truly ill.
RSU 18 has made a district-wide goal of reducing chronic absences this year. We are committed to helping students and parents overcome the obstacles to regular attendance with a variety of programs and resources. We have multiple options and interventions in place at every level and will be putting out several articles with information on each one over the course of the year. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers, school counselors, social workers, or administrators if your child is feeling anxious or seems to be avoiding school. We are all in this together to help them have the most successful future possible.