In attendance

I recently read a piece in the Southwest Journal by Minneapolis Public Schools’ superintendent Bernadeia H. Johnson. In her article, she discussed the new attendance campaign for her schools, Attend to Achieve. Now clearly, we know that in order for a child to learn, a child also needs to go to school—whether it is home schooling or the traditional route. Of course, things happen, be it illness or sports or a family event, but her clear goal is that students should be in school 95 percent of the time. This is the golden number for the following results/

Students who attend school at least 95 percent of the time—

• Are 1.5 times more likely to be on track to graduate on time

• Perform better in math and reading

• Have fewer suspensions

• Are less likely to fail a class, and

• Are more likely to achieve their dreams and enroll in college.

This is good stuff because clearly, she says, “we simply can’t teach students when they are not in school.” She also reports that the impact of consistent student attendance reaches further than just the student; it reflects upon the performance of each school and the school district itself, and correlates with safe and healthy communities, too. 

I agree. We all know what it’s like when an absent colleague needs to be filled in on meetings or work he or she has missed. It cuts into one’s day to play catch up. Now consider a teacher with 25 or more students, trying to realign varying numbers of absences every day and you can see what kind of difficulties there may be moving forward with any single lesson plan.

So what is a 95 percent attendance rate? In the Minneapolis school district, that means missing no more than nine days of school. To me, that seems like quite a lot when you factor in the generous amount of holiday vacation time children also receive. But if you can believe this, right now, according to the attendtoachieve.org website, less than 60 percent of students in Minneapolis meet this goal! Of course, different communities will have different rates; this is just one example.

Bottom line, Ms. Johnson says, is that attendance, like every student, counts. When your student does well, so does your community.