By Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Ed.D.
On-time attendance is valued and we should look at it as an investment that is sure to reap rewards for years to come. Every day that students are in school, it impacts their success and future. As September marks Attendance Awareness Month, I would like to underscore the benefits of positive attendance as it is among my key areas of focus as Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent.
In an effort to monitor attendance closely, the school division formed a leadership attendance task force as we realize excellent attendance habits are a pre-K-12 commitment. Being in school each day and on-time sets good standards as students pursue higher education and enter the workforce.
Going to school each day gives students a sense of belonging as they enjoy being a part of their school and classroom community. It enables students to build strong relationships with peers and teachers. When students attend school regularly and on time, they receive valuable daily instruction that cannot be made up afterwards. Students go home each day feeling fulfilled and with a sense of pride in what they have accomplished in school.
When a child is absent, they miss out on the social, emotional and academic support provided. Time out of school can lead to falling behind in classes as teachers present and discuss subject matter each day. Being in class allows students to build on their knowledge from the previous day and gain a better understanding of what they are learning. Absence also means not being able to take part in extracurricular activities.
Attending school daily in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and all early elementary school grades increases the likelihood that students will read on grade level. Being in the classroom allows students to learn from classmates, collaborate on group projects and develop teamwork and good communication skills. Attendance plays a key role in enabling a student to not only pass but excel in classes in all subject areas. Being in class daily helps deepen a student’s comprehension, critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills. Regular attendance also increases the likelihood students will graduate from high school on time.
I would also like to point out that student absences could be a sign of some difficulty a child is facing. These challenges may include a student struggling with school work, facing peer conflicts or questioning their ability to be successful at school. I assure you that help is available and I suggest families contact your child’s school social worker or counselor for support.
While I encourage and expect students will be in school each day and on time, I also realize when a child is sick they need to stay home. That said, please let your child stay home only on days they are sick and strive for regular attendance which means having nine or less absences for any reason throughout the school year. Did you know that missing 10% or an average of two days of school each month can make it harder for students to learn to read and can impact academic success overall?
Working together in ACPS, our families, teachers and staff are one team on one journey to ensure successful outcomes for all students. The school division continues our ParentSquare morning, midday and evening attendance notifications to families this year. I also urge families with students in secondary school to check attendance regularly on PowerSchool and communicate with your child’s school about attendance concerns. It is also beneficial for families to talk about what is happening in school and find out more about your child’s favorite part of the day as well as issues that may be troubling them.
When it comes to attendance, every day students are in school on time and ready to learn is an opportunity for their success. Being in school, learning and interacting with other students helps a child to grow socially and academically and that is why it is so important for each student to attend daily. Positive attendance habits during the pre-K-12 years put students on the path toward good future habits in college, career and lifelong success.
The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.